Friday, February 23, 2007

Merger Mania-Dennis

Unless you're been held incommunicado somewhere for the last week (or perhaps haven't caught any newscasts because you're a satellite radio listener), you know that Sirius and XM, the holders of the U.S. licenses for satellite radio, have decided the market simply won't sustain two sat radio companies, and they need to merge, in effect becoming a legal monopoly.

As someone who is trying to sustain a local public radio service on, oh... 1/500 of what Sirius is paying just Howard Stern, it's hard for me to be sympathetic. Both XM and Sirius have been spending money like the U.S. government, locking up national personalities like Stern and Oprah, not to mention NFL and college sports, NASCAR and even A Prairie Home Companion and Car Talk. At the same time, they've been spending millions on advertising. As a terrestrial radio manager, I've been more than happy to let them beat each other up, and am having trouble understanding why it's the government's job to let them have a monopoly simply because they've spent themselves into oblivion.

Am I worried satellite radio will take listeners away from KCCK? Well, it's not satellite radio itself that bugs me as much as this is just another trend toward big, faceless companies controlling the music we hear, instead of local people. When Clear Channel started buying multiple signals in cities large and small, company executives insisted the economies of scale would enable them to put interesting, niche formats on some stations that wouldn't have to be as profitable, or at least as profitable as soon. Yeah, that's happened.

If XM and Sirius merge, do you think they will put more jazz (for instance) on the combined service? Of course not, they'll stick with the three flavors they have now and spend the money they've saved on some flavor-of-the-month talk host or music format.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still think there is value in a radio station where a local host picks music he or she thinks is worth sharing, working for a company that's accountable to the community where the both the staff and listeners live.

Try finding that on a satellite. Heck, good luck finding it in most towns. Ours excepted, thanks to you!

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