US regulator endorses satellite radio deal

The Federal Communications Commission chief is recommending approval of the €2.44 billion (US$3.8 billion) the proposed merger of the two largest satellite radio broadcasters in the US, an Associated Press report said.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin made his recommendation in exchange for a number of concessions, including turning 24 channels over to noncommercial and minority programming, the report said.

That sets the stage for a final vote that could occur any time after Martin's recommendation is circulated among his fellow commissioners.

The provision on noncommercial and minority programming along with several others, including a three-year price freeze for customers, persuaded Martin to support Sirius Satellite Radio's buyout of rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings.

The deal would affect millions of subscribers who pay to hear music, news, sports and talk programming, largely free from advertising, in homes and vehicles.

The other four commissioners have kept their views on the deal largely to themselves.

Unlike most FCC decisions, there is no clear indication how the vote will go.

Martin said the conditions will make the combination of the two companies good for consumers.

The companies also agreed to an 'open radio' standard, meant to create competition among manufacturers of satellite radios, according to FCC officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been made public.