In the latest example of two wrongs desperately hoping to make a right, satellite radio rivals XM and Sirius are one step closer to blissful orbital matrimony as the Justice Department has approved the companies' merger. It still has to get past the FCC, but Justice accepted the networks' argument that HD radio, iPods and, uh, player pianos constitute adequate competition in the face of what sure looks like a monopoly to anyone with eyes. Assistant attorney general Thomas O. Barnett laughs off your suspicions, though:
In several important segments of their business, with or without the merger, the parties simply do not compete today and therefore the merger would not be eliminating any competition between them.
Right, so can Apple and Microsoft merge, because people can just use typewriters and read magazines? Hooray!
Despite the fact that Sirius is headed by my creepy former boss at CBS radio, Mel Karmazin, his company has always been my favorite of the two: Howard Stern is as funny as ever, and the delayed broadcast of BBC Radio 1 is like pure crack cocaine to an anglophile like myself. Plus, again, full disclosure, their Boombox channel 34 asked me to do a guest mix once. In comparison, XM's roster of lowest-common-denominator non-radio celebs like Oprah Winfrey and Willie Nelson probably seemed like good ideas at board meetings, but don't necessarily make for good radio. Their stock prices are the inverse of my opinions, however, with XM nearing $14 and Sirius up above $3 after news of the approval emerged.
What would a combo Xirius network look like? Well, first of all, it might let you choose what stations to subscribe to (and pay for), if FCC chairman Kevin Martin has his way; the NY Times says he is "thought to support
the creation of a so-called a la carte system of pricing." You mean I wouldn't have to pay for 80 sports channels or Sunny 24: Soft Pop Oldies, and I could just go straight to Boneyard 41: Hair Bands? Okay, maybe this merger's not so bad.