A week ago we noted that the National Association of Broadcasters was lobbying hard against the merger of XM and Sirius. James Surowiecki of the New Yorker explains that maybe the broadcasters aren't just involved in this out of some abstract concern for justice against anti-competitive business combinations.
The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents commercial radio stations, has lobbied hard against the deal, arguing that XM and Sirius compete only with each other. But the very fact that broadcasters are fighting the merger demonstrates that they view Sirius and XM as a threat. Similarly, for fifteen years AM/FM stations have done everything they could to cripple satellite radio, lobbying the F.C.C. to stop its roll-out in the nineteen-nineties and persistently trying to limit the types of programming XM and Sirius can carry. Just last month, a bill was introduced in Congress—for the third time in as many years—that would bar satellite stations from providing local traffic and weather.
Broadcasters understand that a merger between Sirius and XM would help extend satellite radio’s reach, making it a more formidable competitor. Many consumers have hesitated to subscribe to satellite because they didn’t know which company would survive. And desirable content is split between the companies: if you want major-league baseball and Bob Edwards, you need XM, but if you want N.F.L. games and Howard Stern, you need Sirius. Allowing Sirius and XM to merge would eliminate this problem in one stroke. And that would significantly increase the competitive pressure on traditional radio stations, perhaps forcing them to abandon their cookie-cutter model. Paradoxically, by reducing choice you could stimulate more diversity. Sometimes, it seems, you can have fewer competitors but more competition.
Satellite Sisters [New Yorker]