The FCC can be and always have been a politically charged agency. The current makeup of the commissions five members include three republicans and two democrats. Much of the happenings in the agency can be boiled down to political lines, and frequently these lines are clearly demonstrated by public filings.
With regards to media ownership, the statements of members of the commission seem to be taking shots at each other on a more frequent basis. Most recently Chairman Martin outlined a proposal that would loosen some of the rules of media ownership. Commissioners Copps and Adelstein fired back stating, "This is portrayed as a moderate proposal, but it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Don’t let the wool be pulled over your eyes." Shortly prior to this statement the same commissioners (Copps and Adelstein) were extremely critical of the short notice given for a public hearing in Seattle Washington. In that direct and to the point statement the commissioners stated, "A hearing with only five days notice is no nirvana for Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. This smells like mean spirit. Clearly, the rush is on to push media consolidation to a quick and ill-considered vote. It shows there is a preordained outcome. Pressure from the public and their elected representatives is ignored. With such short notice, many people will be shut out. We received notice of the hearing just moments before it was announced. This is outrageous and not how important media policy should be made."
What does all of this mean for Sirius and XM merger watchers? It could mean nothing at all, but could also mean that the FCC vote on the merger could fall within party lines. If this were to transpire, the merger, once voted on, would gain FCC approval by a three to two vote. If there is a wish to get media ownership rules relaxed, how does that impact the merger? Readers can arrive at their own conclusions.
Going into this process, merger followers should have been fully aware that this merger would be politically charged. While the commission has an obligation to look at this merger on its merits, politics often becomes a contributing factor. With battle lines seemingly drawn on media ownership, it does not stretch the imagination to think that similar stances may be transpiring with regards to the proposed Sirius and XM merger and as things look now, the merger could have enough commission support to pass.
Now that the shareholders have joined those that have made unique public comments and both groups have overwhelmingly shown their support for the merger, the decision rests with the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission.
Position - Long Sirius, XM