The Department of Justice's Antitrust division has approved the merger of Sirius and XM. The NAB, which has vigorously fought the merger was predictably indignant. NAB EVP Dennis Wharton fumed:
We are astonished that the Justice Department would propose granting a monopoly to two companies that systematically broke FCC rules for more than a decade.
It isn't clear why the NAB feels that the DOJ should be so concerned about their violations when the FCC didn't seem too upset, but when one is tilting at windmills, any stick will do. The truth is that the merger really doesn't matter. Both Sirius and XM are good examples of bad radio. If their products were local radio stations in a small market, they would be well down the rankers. With few exceptions the formats are repetitious, with jocks in serious need of coaching, and marketing that is non-existent to dreadful.
If the merger goes through, we'll have one mediocre sounding satellite radio company instead of two. Without the competition, the formats will have even less incentive to "innovate" (as if what one hears on XM or Sirius is the result of innovation).
Subscription churn is already increasing and new subscription rates are slowing. We are probably close to a subscription plateau. Our research suggests that there are few people on the sidelines who are ready to sign up once there's a single satellite radio company, even at current prices. When the merged company tries to raise subscription rates, the plateau will quickly turn into a plummet.
So let them merge. Let's stop letting satellite radio distract us from the real challenge we face, creating compelling radio that people want to listen to.