Michael Learmonth noted yesterday that the FCC has now asked for more information from potential mates Sirius (SIRI) and XM Satellite Radio (XMSR). Some analysts viewed this as a sign that the deal is sure to be approved. Others took it as confirmation that it is sure to be dinged.
Well, it’s time to put an end to this ridiculous deliberation. By now, the FCC should have all the information it could possibly need. The idea that the government should block a merger of two small, desperate, cash-burning businesses on anti-trust grounds is preposterous. The FCC should just ignore the screaming, rubber-stamp the deal, and go home.
Sirius and XM need each other desperately: If they can’t wipe out their competition, jack prices, and cut costs, both of them will go belly up. Of course the merger will raise prices for consumers–as well it should (because the current prices are unsustainable). What’s more, if customers don’t want to pay those prices, they can turn a knob and fire up the free terrestrial radio that comes standard in every American automobile. So what if satellite radio has “exclusive programming.” If consumers want exclusive programming, they can bloody well pay up.
And what if, horrors, post-merger satellite radio suddenly becomes a highly profitable business? (Nowhere near as profitable as Microsoft, eBay, Google, and other legal monopolies, of course, but just highly profitable). And what if tens of millions of consumers are crying out about the weight of usurious XM/Siri pricing that they just can’t live without? Then some other enterprising entrepreneur can throw up another satellite.
In some cases, the FCC actually has an important role to play in protecting consumers. This isn’t one of them.