The Wall Street Journal‘s Lee Gomes has a column today that lands squarely on the side of the XM-Sirius merger, and while we’re not wholly convinced, we’re intrigued by Gomes’ closing rationale as to why he’s in its favor:
Still, there is a reason to root for a merger, and it involves the group most actively opposing it: the broadcast lobby. When XM and Sirius made their announcement, a spokesman for broadcasters said the satellite-radio companies were looking for a “government bailout.”
But this argument is from the possessors of one of Washington’s most potent lobbying forces. If any group is skilled in the ways of governmental largess, it’s broadcasters.
If you fret about diminished choices with a joined Sirius and XM, think for a second about commercial radio in the U.S. Its ownership is highly concentrated, its programming is most commonly described as “soulless” and it is missing most of the public-interest programming we used to take for granted.
A radio station, after all, is but a state-approved monopoly on the public’s airwaves. Remember when radio stations turned out news programs? (Broadcasters say listeners can fill any vacuum with a host of other sources.)
Compared with commercial radio, a merged XM and Sirius would look like Florence in the Renaissance.
It is said that one test of how much competition will exist after a merger is the extent to which a competitor squawks; the more complaining, the more there will be a thriving market. Judging by the decibels from the broadcasters, satellite and broadcast radio would soon be at each others’ throats.
What’s not to like about that?
While we’re always wary of consolidation of any kind, we do have to admit that the idea of building a fire under terrestrial radio’s ass is appealing; even one of the satellite-radio companies’ offerings beats the pants off the forest of Jacks, Zs, and Lites that big radio has blanketed across the nation. Sure, the broadcast spectrum may have its limitations, but terrestrial radio’s advantage in making individual stations more “niche” would be its ability to localize content–which may cost money in the short-term, but surely that’s preferable to complete irrelevance. (Right?)
How Radio Listeners Will Fare in a Merger of Sirius and XM [WSJ]
My Near-Death Experience With Clear Channel [Inside Music Media]