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Airwaves: April 4, 2008

Merger Not Opposed ...

The Department of Justice has decided not to oppose the merger of satellite subscription radio services XM and Sirius, issuing an opinion that the merger would not be anticompetitive.

Ironically, it may be the broadcast radio industry itself that helped seal the deal. For while the National Association of Broadcasters opposed the merger on the grounds that it would create an unfair monopoly, that same NAB has lobbying the FCC to allow more consolidation due to increased competition from not only satellite radio but iPods, the internet, and of course CDs. XM and Sirius used the alternative competition argument to help their case in the merger.

Regardless, while the FCC still has to sign off on the deal, no once expects any opposition from that group. The deal appears to be done.

What does this mean for subscribers? Once the dust settles, probably more choice and possibly more cost. Expect to be able to select from both current XM and Sirius offerings for a package price similar to how cable and satellite television works: the more you get the more you pay. To get every channel, you'll most likely be paying more than the current $9.99 to $12.99 per month. You can also expect to see some channels go away, as the need for almost identical channels from the formerly competing services declines.

And if things go well, Barry "Greg Brady" Williams will be forever banished from Sirius' Totally Seventies channel.

Hating Subscribers

While the news is good on the merger front, Sirius subscribers, including myself, are getting more and more annoyed -- make that angry -- about the decision by Sirius executives and programmers to force unpopular single-artist channels on us.

Included in the roster are E-Street Radio (All Bruce Springsteen), all Rolling Stones, all Elvis, all Grateful Dead, and coming soon, all R.E.M. The single artist channels replace popular channels that formerly played a variety of music including KNX-FM style mellow rock (The Bridge) and a no-holds-barred Super Shuffle.

Reaction on Sirius fan site SiriusBackstage.Com has been 100 percent negative, with comments ranging from "I think I am done with Sirius" to "Ugh!" One poster mentioned that if it weren't for Cousin Brucie and TJ Lubinsky on the '60s and '50s channels, respectively, they'd drop their subscription.

Why does Sirius do this? Certainly it can't be subscriber demand. Rumor is that the artists themselves pay to have the channels; unfortunately we may never know, since the press contacts at Sirius never return messages. I mean never: I've written to them for years and have never once received a reply.


With Bonneville Broadcasting reentering the Los Angeles radio market by the purchase of KRBV (V-100, 100.3 FM), what format will they feature?

My vote would be for one of two formats long gone from the local airwaves. Either a non-rap top-40 (currently known in the industry as adult contemporary hit radio) such as what was once heard on KHJ, KIIS-FM or even Anaheim's KEZY/KXMX back in the day, or a current-leaning album-rock station similar to the Mellow Sound once heard on KNX-FM. Both would be far more intelligent-sounding than much of what is currently offered. I'd be a happy camper.

What would you like to hear? Write in and let me know!


Copyright © 2008 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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