SEATTLE, Washington - the Federal Communications Commission serves no purpose for most of us, but its existence is still a great deal for the five people on the board, who have spent the last 450+ days getting their rings kissed by proponents and opponents of the XM/Sirius merger.
Now FCC chair Kevin Martin is going to recommend approval of the merger to the rest of the board, with a bunch of diktats and restrictions forced upon the merged entity, just to show that the FCC is doing its job.
The merged entity will have to offer a bunch of new pricing packages, agree not to raise prices for three years, and abide by other arbitrary conditions. Most grating to me is that they will probably have to set aside about 8% of available bandwidth (about 24 channels) for stuff that the FCC thinks people want, instead of simply trusting the company to provide what people want:
The companies agreed to turn over 8 percent of their satellite capacity, which works out to 12 channels apiece for noncommercial programmers and for those who have "not been traditionally represented" in radio.
Sirius already provides minority programming. Take for example the black man: SIRI provides several music channels that you'd have to say cater to a black audience, plus there's an entire comedy channel, headlined by Jamie Foxx, targeted to a black audience.
SIRI even has a gay/lesbian talk channel and has had it for years.
Seems the number-crunchers at the FCC don't consider all of this adequate. Implicit in the FCC's minority programming requirement is the patronizing assumption that various minority groups will not be interested in the 140+ channels offered by satellite radio unless something is narrowly targeted to them.
Even given all of this, the whole FCC board is not yet happy. History-professor-turned-FCC-petty-dictator Michael Copps is still making noise that approval is still a "steep climb" - the ass-kissing of Copps is not yet completed.