It is the issue that wont go away, and even after almost three years has not come to a resolution. Back when the merger was approved there were several stipulations attached. One stipulation related to Sirius XM giving up space for channels to be leased to "qualified entities" that would provide minority and educational programming.

Over the last couple of years there has been several proposals related to the channel leaseback requirement. Most recently American Independent Radio (AIR) filed a white paper with the FCC outlining a proposal that would have them being the qualified entity.

On August 19, 2010 the FCC granted a brief extension of the issue until November 21, 2010. The FCC seems to indicate some progress on the issue, but as with anything associated with the government there is enough vagueness in the document to drive a Mack Truck through. The timing of the new deadline will now virtually coincide with the opening for public comment (a six month period) on whether or not Sirius XM can end their price freeze.

The FCC Adoption

Adopted: August 19, 2010 Released: August 19, 2010
By the Chief, Media Bureau:

1. In this Order, the Media Bureau, on its own motion, grants an extension until November 21, 2010, for Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. to implement their voluntary commitment to enter into long-term leases or other agreements to provide a Qualified Entity or Entities rights to four percent of the full-time audio channels on the Sirius and XM platforms (“Leasing Condition”).

2. On July 25, 2008, the Commission approved the transfer of control of licenses and authorizations held by the Applicants, subject to the Applicants’ fulfillment of the Leasing Condition, among other commitments and conditions.2 In response to commenters’ concerns about the mechanics of the channel lease administration and allocation, the Commission deferred a decision as to specific implementation details for the Leasing Condition.3 On February 27, 2009, the Media Bureau issued a Public Notice seeking comment on the implementation details of the Leasing Condition. In response the Public Notice, commenters raised a number of additional concerns and proposed a range of models to implement the Leasing Condition. The Bureau anticipates Commission action on the implementation guidelines in the near future, and thus this brief extension is appropriate. The Commission will address any additional timing issues in its implementation order.

3. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED, that pursuant to Sections 4(i), 4(j), 303(r), and 310(d), of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 154(i), 154(j), 303(r) and 310(d), and authority delegated in Section 1.46 of our rules, 47 C.F.R. § 1.46, Sirius XM is granted an extension of time, sua sponte, until November 21, 2010, to fulfill its voluntary commitment to enter into long-term leases or other agreements to provide a Qualified Entity or Entities rights to four percent of the full-time audio channels on the Sirius platform and on the XM platform.

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

William T. Lake - Chief, Media Bureau

It looks like this issue will still have quite a lot of debate before it gets resolved.

Position - Long Sirius XM Radio