As the merger of Sirius Satellite Radio (SIRI) and XM Satellite Radio (XMSR) appears headed for FCC approval, what becomes of the once-mighty National Association of Broadcasters, the lobby for local radio and TV that has made opposing the “satellite radio monopoly” its raison d’etre? Now the Washington Post has caught the NAB orchestrating a crass—and desperate-looking—”astroturf” campaign to create the appearance of a citizen groundswell against the merger.
The Wapo tried to track down the senders of 60 anti-merger emails received by the FCC but found “mostly unanswered phone calls and recordings saying the phones were disconnected.” The Wapo did reach 10 “senders”, but nine said they’d never sent anything to the FCC, and only one remembered filling out something about Sirius but did not recall taking a position on the merger. All of the emails, it turns out, were “instigated” by the NAB.
The NAB reps thousands of local radio operators across the country; presumably all of them would oppose the SIRI-XMSR merger. So why, then, would it have to resort to tactics used by spammers and subprime lenders to generate letters? The lobby said it gathered 8,500 e-mails by buying pop-up ads on web sites like CarMax.com, Staples.com and PriceGrabber.com. “I have a high degree of confidence in this,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said. “It was a fairly rigorous process.”