Sirius+XM is official as FCC approves merger

On a 3-2 party-line vote, the Federal Communications Commission approved the merger of Sirius and XM, although the satellite radio companies had to make some key concessions.

The final commissioner to vote on the deal was Deborah Taylor Tate, who held her vote pending XM and Sirius agreeing to certain limitations. The two sides did so late last week, and Tate gave her blessing late Friday.

The Department of Justice had given the merger a green light in March of this year following its own review, already 13 months after XM and Sirius first announced their plans to merge in February 2007.

As part of the deal struck with the FCC, subscription rates will be frozen for a period of three years. In addition, interoperable radios will arrive within a year, and 8 percent of the channel capacity will be set aside for minority and educational programming.

XM and Sirius will also be ordered to pay about $20 million in fines as a result of operating their terrestrial repeaters without licenses. XM was fined $17.5 million, while Sirius would pay the remainder.

In a statement, FCC chairman Kevin Martin gave the deal his blessing. "The merger is in the public interest and will provide consumers with greater flexibility and choices," he said.

Satellite radio may not be completely out of the woods yet, however. With the FCC now free of the merger matters, it will now look into whether it should compel the industry to include technology in its radios to receive so-called "HD Radio" signals.

Commercial radio stations are offering the service in many cities as an alternative to satellite. It is not clear how successful the latest proposal may be, GM and Toyota have both complained to the FCC saying it would dilute the offerings of satellite radio.

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