The Sirius-XM Merger: It May Make Terrestrial Radio Slightly Less Sucky

Mar 28th, 2007 // 5 Comments

xm_sirius.jpgThe 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]


  1. AcidReign

    …..I’ve got some XM and other stuff at home via AOL, and the main thing I think that makes it worthwhile is having less commercials. My god, broadcast outlets in my city seem to have more commercials than content! And the commercials are a hellofalot louder and more obnoxious than the songs?!?

    …..Having said that, while I’m web-surfing, my most likely listening choice is to load my entire MP3 collection and put the player on shuffle mode.

  2. catdirt

    look- this guy is wrong- here is why…
    first of all: satellite radio is just another corporate voice- and whether it’s one or two, its only one or two voices added to the mix.

    terrestial radio stations have gotten away from the “local” because of the consolidation process of the 80s, but the decline of major labels will increase localization in terrestial radio

  3. Mick Kraut

    As an XM subscriber I am very pleased with my music and sports options…You simply hear many things you never are going to hear on terrestrial radio…

    Willie’s Place
    Lucy, Fred and Ethel
    80s on 8
    90s on 9
    MLB game broadcasts

    Nowhere on my terrestrial dial am I going to ever hear:

    * Classic George Jones and Ray Price
    * Bloc Party, Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie
    * Rush (beyond Tom Sawyer anyway), Dream Theater or King Crimson

    If you want what FASTER referred to as the “Groundhog Day” element to your listening, they have channels that scratch that itch too…

    What I would like to see come of this deal is that XM no longer needs to take so damn many ads on their talk show offerings or at least better quality ads if I have to listen to them…I like listening to ESPN Radio during morning and afternoon drive time and if the commericals played are an indicator of the audience, everyone listening is over their heads in debt, impotent and looking to become real estate millionaires working 5 hours a month…

    Calling something a “Corporate Voice” shouldnt be seen as some horrific thing…without the corporation, the service simply wouldnt exist…Thanks to Podcasts, there can be an element of DIY in local broadcasts and news, but that isnt the intent of satellite radio…I am not listening to XM for my local news, I have the AM band for that…

  4. Faster

    Corporate or not, here are the facts:

    On satellite radio, I can hear Mew, Tapes ‘n Tapes, Ted Leo and Deerhoof back to back.

    On terrestial radio, it’s groundhog day. Every morning for 3 weeks, I wake up and hear the same song. Last month it was Beyonce. Right now it’s the Gwen Stefani/Akon tune.

    If Sirius is corporate, then so am I.

  5. highlifer

    Here’s my concern about the merger -
    Can I still listen to BBC Radio 1 in my car? If yes, who cares.
    If not, I may go on a killing spree.

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