For Immediate Release
The merger between satellite radio companies XM and Sirius could be approved if conditions are attached to the deal to protect consumers, Public Knowledge President Gigi B. Sohn told the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee today.
In written testimony, Sohn did not take a position on whether the merger would pass antitrust scrutiny, but said if it did, then the deal should be approved only if it is subject three conditions:
the new company makes available pricing choices such as tiered programming.
the new company makes 5% of its capacity available to non-commercial educational and informational programming over which it has no editorial control.
the new company agrees not to raise prices for its combined programming package (as opposed to each individual company's current programming package) for three years after the merger is approved.
Given the financial state of both companies, their slowing customer base and the growing competition in the marketplace, it appears likely that in the absence of a merger, both services will continue to limp along instead of investing in new and diverse programming. Might it not be better for consumers to permit the merger under conditions that provide expanded programming and pricing choice along with temporary measures to keep prices in check? After a great deal of discussion with my public interest colleagues, former regulators and antitrust experts, I believe that the latter is the best course.
In addition, Sohn said that the rights of consumers to record and store music from the satellite services should be protected. Public Knowledge would oppose “any merger condition involving any limitations on the ability of consumers to record these satellite radio services. Such a condition would be tantamount to repealing the Audio Home Recording Act, which specifically protects a consumer's ability to record digital music,” Sohn said in her statement, which is posted at: http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/870.
Sohn also criticized the broadcasters and their trade group, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) for opposing the merger at a time when the broadcast industry is seeking further consolidations.
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