Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin warned Thursday that regulators will be watching closely to ensure that XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. (XMSR) and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. (SIRI) follow through on their promise to release the technical standards of their radios to any manufacturer if the two companies merge, as expected.
"This is something I do take seriously," Martin said, citing a nearly $20 million fine the two companies already have agreed to for broadcasting at excessive power levels and using unauthorized towers. "This isn't the only significant fine that we've ever placed. I take all those issues seriously," Martin said
XM and Sirius have been waiting for nearly a year and a half to merge, and have agreed to a host of conditions with the FCC in order to do so.
At the request of Martin and several members of Congress, the two companies promised to allow any manufacturer to construct a satellite radio that would receive its signal.
FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein had requested that a separate enforcement entity monitor the company to ensure that those specifications would be readily available. The FCC has received several complaints that the two companies haven't abided by earlier promises to make their radios interoperable.
Adelstein voted against the proposed merger Wednesday.
Martin said he didn't think that the additional enforcement requested by Adelstein was necessary given the FCC's current authority.
Adelstein also requested that the merged satellite company include HD radio capabilities in any radios that it subsidizes through rebates or other cost-lowering mechanisms. Martin said radio manufacturers can include an HD component if they choose once the company makes its technical standards available.
"I didn't see why it was necessary to impose a requirement on a radio manufacturer to include an HD chip," Martin said.
The Justice Department approved the merger in March.