Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Radio radio

Richard Siklos at The New York Times didn't do the proposed merger of satellite radio players Sirius and XM any favors when he opened his Sunday story on the architect of the plan with: "Mel Karmazin could sell microwavable ice to Eskimos." Other recent NYT stories, such as the one on the premium Karmazin offered XM to get it to accept the deal and the one on how the deal is timed to take advantage of the current administration's willingness to accommodate Big Business, also gave the impression that Karmazin is trying to pull a fast one on the public and their not-always-so vigilant regulatory watchdogs.

Maybe he is. Today's NYT story suggests that FCC chairman Kevin Martin thinks so and indeed, it does look like Karmazin is sugarcoating the benefits to satellite radio subscribers, like me. Given what I had read up 'til now, I presumed that if the merger closed, I'd get XM programming in addition to my current Sirius programming for the same price I pay now. Silly me. It turns out Mel is only offering to give me the same programming I get now for the same price, for a while. If I want XM, I'll pay more. In other words, Karmazin's promise of more choice and lower prices is actually more choice or the same price.

As a Sirius stockholder, I am totally in favor of the merger. As a customer, I don't care much one way or another. As a citizen, I'm wondering if all this posturing by Congress and the FCC is just show biz or if they really are serious about minding the air waves.

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