Karmazin Counters Character Qualification Criticisms

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Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin took aim at broadcaster arguments that satellite radio's deployment of unauthorized terrestrial repeaters was an argument against letting Sirius and XM merge.

At a Hill hearing on the merger, Peter Smyth, CEO of Greater Media, said that XM and Sirius had been operating terrestrial repeaters "in blatant violation of FCC rules. XM operated more  than 142 repeaters at unauthorized locations," he said, while Sirius had built"at least 11 repeaters at locations different from what they told the FCC."

Karmazin conceded that that was something that should not have happened, pointed out it had happened before he joined the company, apologized, but said that should not affect XM's qualifications as a licensee of the potential of the merger.

Putting it back on broadcasters, Karmazin noted that Clear Channel and CBS Radio [which Karmazin used to run] and several other groups had just settled with the FCC over payola allegation, that other broadcasters had been fined for indecency and political advertising violations, and that Univision had been hit with a $24 settlement over kids TV rules violations.

He said he was not suggesting they should not be allowed to do business, and essentially asked the same consideration for his companies past problems.

"We should be good corporate citizens," he said, "and I believe we are."

Asked whether, if satellite radio competed with broadcast radio, why it shouldn't be held to the same kind of indecency standards, Karmazin said the two services were fundamentally different.

Smyth also raised the indecency issue, saying some of satellite radio's "X-rated programming," bleeds through to over-the-air listeners.

Asked by Texas Democrat Gene Green whether satellite radio should be under similar indecency regime, Karmazin said no. He pointed out, echoing arguments made by pay video media, that consumers pay for the service, and in addition have the ability to block channels they don't want to receive.