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Chriss Scherer Scherer has been the editor of Radio magazine since 1997. His experience in radio includes work as chief engineer at stations in Cleveland (WMMS-FM, WHK-AM, WZJM-FM, WJMO-AM...more

Archive of the FCC/Regulatory Category

One Satellite Radio Provider

The FCC’s votes are in. Sirius and XM will soon merge into a single company. Are you surprised? I’m not.

In a narrow view, Sirius and XM competed only with each other. In a more realistic view, they competed with every other form of audio media including terrestrial radio, Internet radio and media players. Will this approved merger be the end of terrestrial radio? Hardly.

After nearly 1.5 years of challenging the transaction, the NAB lost its fight. We saw a steady stream of activity in this debate, and now that it’s over, NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton issued a statement: “Today’s vote certainly comes as a disappointment to NAB. We continue to believe that consumers are best served by competition rather than monopolies.”

Competition is healthy. I agree with that. So monopolies are bad, but superopolies formed from a few companies owning huge numbers of stations in a single market are good.

Sat Radio – Still Waiting

The FCC is taking its time in completing the satellite radio merger deal. While it’s anyone’s guess as to which way the decision will go, the feud continues about the pros and cons of the deal. Once the deal passed the DOJ, Radio magazine posted a survey question asking you to vote on your thought about the possiblie conditions the FCC might include with the deal. I think it’s likely that the deal will be approved by the FCC, and it will include a conditions. A few days ago, two congressmen sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin echoing the idea. The congressmen said that they do not support or oppose the merger, but urge the FCC to include some requirements if the deal is approved. I wonder which lobbying group got them to do that.

Of course this is how politics work. There’s always a deal and a compromise. The Congressional letter doesn’t get any closer to completing the deal, but keeping it at the top of the discussion list will prevent it from being ignored.

Sat Radio Merger: One Step Closer

The proposed merger of XM and Sirius has passed the Department of Justice gauntlet. This was one hurdle that was uncertain for the deal, but the DOJ decided that allowing the merger would not lessen competition in the media landscape.

Naturally, the opponents to the deal are all crying about the decision and repeating the same claims about legalized monopoly, the satcasters defiance of existing rules, the expectation that the merged company will raise its subscription rates (why is that a concern to terrestrial broadcasters?) and more. The DOJ doesn’t see it that way, and neither do I.

The next step in the process is the visit the FCC. From what I see, the unbiased parties believe that the FCC will agree with the DOJ, although there will likely be some restrictions and conditions imposed on the deal. Will the merged entity be required to surrender some of its spectrum? I doubt it. Will the combined service radio be required to include HD Radio? Possibly. If so, that’s a win for that technology.

Now I wonder how the opponents, who have spent huge sums to publicize their opposition, will justify the cost of their efforts to their constituents.

With less than 10 days left in the first quarter of 2008, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin stated that he doubts the FCC will complete its review of the proposal before the end of the quarter. That’s an easy bet. I’m sure the pressure will increase to have a ruling by the end of the second quarter. The FCC will move carefully, and will receive many visits from the lobbyists before this decision is made.

The return of the birds

It’s been quiet on the subject of towers being the cause of massive deaths of migratory birds — until now. On Feb. 19, a U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the FCC to study the effects that several thousand towers have on migratory birds in the Gulf Coast region.

We have covered this topic in Radio magazine many times before. In my Viewpoint in the January 2007 issue I noted that there is a great deal of misinformation and supposedly factual evidence of the severity of the problem. Many of the studies that are currently referenced point to other studies that point back to the original. There doesn’t appear to be any source data in the first place.

I’m all for protecting the environment and wildlife, but I haven’t seen the undisputed data to recognize the real severity of this problem. Perhaps this court order will produce some factual results.

Read more: Fight Over Flight

HD Radio: More Power!

By now you have heard that there is a quiet movement to increase the power level of the digital portion of the HD Radio hybrid signal. You can read something about that in the Feb.6 Digital Radio Update newsletter.

On the surface, increasing the level of the digital carriers sounds like a good idea. More power means a better digital signal. But increasing the power raises other questions, with concerns of first-adjacent channel interference being at the top.

The results of the study have not yet been posted. I’m looking forward to reading them.

What’s your opinion of the power increase?

HD Radio in all Satellite Radio Receivers

As the proposed satellite radio merger of Sirius and XM drags on, Ibiquity and the HD Digital Radio Alliance have added their voice to the filings. Ibiquity has no formal stance on the merger itself, but says that a condition of the merger would be to require that all future combined-mode satellite radio receivers must also have HD Radio capability.

A mandate such as this would certainly help put HD Radio receivers on the street.

Some argue that this mandates a privately developed technology to be used in consumer products. This would obviously benefit Ibiquity. On the other hand, a satellite radio receiver is already loaded with private-interest technology that benefits the satellite radio providers.

If adopted by the FCC, the requirement would likely help HD Radio adoption. Still, if the consumer wants to buy a satellite radio receiver, that’s his choice. He shouldn’t be forced to pay for something he may not want.

What’s your view?

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