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Sirius and XM agree to resolve regulatory issues holding up merger

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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin said this morning that Sirius and XM had agreed to pay $19.7 million to resolve outstanding compliance problems with some of their radios and transmitters. The move clears the way for final regulatory approval of the long-pending $3.9 billion merger of the nation’s two satellite radio companies, perhaps as early as today.

‘I’m optimistic that now we got this issue out of the way we can move forward with an approval,’ Martin told the Times.

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As we wrote today, the FCC appeared poised to grant the merger after resolving the compliance issues, which were a priority of Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, the swing vote on the five-member panel and the only commissioner yet to make a decision.

‘This was an issue that one of the commissioners had said was important to get addressed before we moved forward,’ Martin said.

Sirius and XM confirmed this morning they were in discussions with the FCC to settle ‘outstanding enforcement matters.’

Martin said XM agreed to pay $17.5 million and Sirius $2.2 million for unauthorized ground-based repeater transmitters and radios that exceeded power limits. XM agreed to a much larger figure because it continued to operate hundreds of unauthorized repeaters dating to 2006 as it sought FCC approval.

‘That’s a significant violation of our rules,’ Martin said. Sirius will pay less because it had shut down its unauthorized transmitters.

Broadcasters had made the compliance problems part of their aggressive campaign to convince regulators to deny the merger. The Justice Department approved the merger in March. Martin announced his support last month after Sirius and XM agreed to several conditions, including freezing subscription rates for three years, offering cheaper packages of stations, and allocating 4% of their channels for noncommercial and minority programming.

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Puzzanghera, a Times staff writer, covers tech and media policy from Washington, D.C.


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