FCC Commissioners Ponder XM-Sirius Proposal

Hill Democrats continue to push for conditions on satellite-radio merger.

The pushback from Hill Democrats continues as the Federal Communications Commission members contemplate a proposal, circulated by FCC chairman Kevin Martin, to approve the XM Satellite Radio-Sirius Satellite Radio merger with conditions volunteered by the two companies.

In a letter dated June 27, five House Democrats from Minnesota wrote the commissioners to register their disapproval with the condition that would set aside only 8% of the combined company's spectrum -- 4% for educational fare and another 4% to an outside entity, say, a minority, to program their own channels on the service.

The legislators said 25% of the spectrum should be reserved for educational, minority and emergency-service use.

And echoing a letter from a trio of senators including John Kerry (D-Mass.), they called for a requirement that the satellite-radio receivers also be able to receive digital broadcasts from free, over-the-air radio stations.

They also warned that approval of the XM-Sirius merger without conditions would be "to the detriment of the public interest," although the odds of an approval with no conditions are slim to none.

Signing the letter were Reps. Betty McCollum, James Oberstar, Collin Peterson, Keith Ellison and Tim Walz.