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Sirius, XM Merger Gets FCC Approval

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the who-wants-a-choice-anyway dept.

Media 187

Multiple readers, including koavf, have written to tell us the FCC has finally approved the Sirius-XM merger that has been in the works for quite a while now. CNN has picked up AP coverage as well. We discussed approval of the merger by the Justice Department a few months ago. From CNN: "The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to approve the buyout, with the tiebreaker coming Friday night from Republican commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate. Tate had insisted that the companies settle charges that they violated FCC rules before she would approve the deal. The companies agreed this week to pay $19.7 million to the U.S. Treasury for violations related to radio receivers and ground-based signal repeaters. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin confirmed the final vote Friday night. 'I think it's going to be, in the end, a good thing for consumers and be in the public interest,' he told The Associated Press."

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Business as usual (4, Insightful)

Chester K (145560) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346037)

Of course, the merger comes with strict conditions to keep things in the public interest.

Conditions like the conditions XM and Sirius were originally given when they were granted space on the spectrum. Conditions such as "these two companies may never, ever be allowed to merge".

Re:Business as usual (5, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346143)

If the companies can't survive without each other, what's the harm in letting them merge? It's not like they're going to lock you out of terrestrial radio. Times change. Just because before we said "You may never merge" doesn't mean it should apply today.

Oversight as usual (4, Interesting)

jevvim (826181) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346219)

In the beginning, there were a lot more ads on satellite radio. One of the two companies (I forget which) decided to focus on ad-free music channels; amazingly, the other company reduced the number of channels with ads as well. Post-merger, I'm concerned that Big Satellite (B.S.) will finally take aim at the terrestrial market. With only one satellite service type, how long until we see automobiles that come with a free B.S. receiver but the terrestrial receiver (AM/FM) costs extra? To me, though, it comes down to the apparent difference between Republican and Democratic oversight: Republicans reject regulations unless a direct fault can be seen (well, satellite competes with terrestrial, so it's not a monopoly) whereas Democrats demand regulations unless a direct fault can be guaranteed not to happen (well, they could become a monopoly, so forbid them from merging). I'm curious how much the FCC could "change" this decision in a year, should the executive branch return to Democratic hands.

Re:Oversight as usual (2, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346529)

If they're willing to pay twenty million dollars to whoever criticizes the combined company, expect lots of trivial criticisms followed by sudden silence. Frankly, there are very few radio stations worth a damn any more, because of excessive mergers and over-generous media ownership rules. Radio Caroline is still ok, but they've alway been wiling to be different.

Re:Business as usual (4, Insightful)

Chester K (145560) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346319)

If the companies can't survive without each other, what's the harm in letting them merge?

The companies might have a valid case about 'not being able to survive without each other' if they didn't make almost suicidally bad business decisions like paying Howard Stern 300 million dollars only to find out he can't bring in enough subscribers to even break even on his paycheck.

And if they were to have failed individually, I'm sure there are plenty of buyers who'd love to have gotten their assets and put together a profitable satellite radio company with their current subscriber numbers.

Instead they got what amounts to a bailout -- except instead of dollars, the currency of their bailout is fair competition to the benefit of consumers in a market that's now effectively being made into a government approved, privately maintained monopoly

Re:Business as usual (3, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346617)

meh, the Stern deal was probably worth it for the publicity alone, think about it, you and millions of others still remember it years later.

Re:Business as usual (1)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347039)

I never would have bought Sirius if it wasn't for Stern.

Re:Business as usual (1, Troll)

xanadu-xtroot.com (450073) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347217)

Before Howard signed, Sirius had only about 500,000 subscribers. Only 2.5 years after Howard broadcasting, they are over 8 million.
Before Howard signed, Sirius was about to fold up shop because XM was creaming them in subscribers. Now, Sirius is spearheading the merger with XM being the "loser" of the two.

I'd say the He/She that owns Sirius (with Mel's help, of course) made a damn good business decision with signing Howard.



Yes, I am a Stern fan. I've been a listener since '90 +/-.

Re:Business as usual (2, Interesting)

loraksus (171574) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346531)

Oh please. Their struggles are about as legitimate as Microsoft's whining that there aren't enough H1B visas being handed out and that there are no qualified Americans for X thousand jobs.

Re:Business as usual (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347119)

"Just because before we said "You may never merge" doesn't mean it should apply today."

You have a very strange understanding of the word "never".

Re:Business as usual (5, Insightful)

Shihar (153932) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346251)

Yeah? And Ford has a monopoly on cars made by Ford. w00t. Someone call the lawyers.

All companies are monopolies if you narrow the 'slice' of what you are looking at down far enough. You need to look at the big picture though. Sure, Sirius and XM have a monopoly on satellite radio, but satellite radio sure as hell doesn't have a monopoly on ears. I happily listen to an MP3 player or free radio on my way into work without feeling the slightest pressure to go dump however much it costs for bad satellite radio.

Monopolies only work when there are no or few other viable option. If there is a simple substitution, the monopoly is broken, even if it isn't exactly the same product. It is like if Apple all of a sudden started to charge even higher prices for that silly little MP3 players. You couldn't cry foul over their "monopoly" on iPods. Sure, iPods might not be available at a reasonable price, but a smart person would just pick up another MP3 player that is cheaper.

The reason why they two are being allowed to merge is because one is going to tank if they don't merge. One is going to tank because satellite radio is getting murdered by the competition. If one is going to go bust, it is better to let them do it in a less destructive manner. It would be one thing if satellite radio was dominating and people were clawing at each other to break into the market. That isn't the case though, satellite radio is just barely hanging on. Letting the two companies merge is far more likely to result in quality improvements and price drops as they consolidate their infrastructure and struggle to compete in the less than profitable radio market.

Re:Business as usual (1)

mazarin5 (309432) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346647)

Although if you widen the slice enough, nothing is a monopoly. Microsoft is not a monopoly, because you can always buy a Mac, or a typewriter, or a toaster. :)

They have monopolized the satellite radio market, but not the greater radio market in general - that's still Clear Channel's domain.

Re:Business as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346739)

By that logic, it would be okay if Ford were the only company making cars, because cars aren't the only form of transport, right? Dell is the only company making computers? So what, you can go to a library!

Monopoly (4, Informative)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347331)

Depends on how close is the substitution. If Ford was the only company making cars, and the other options were walking and horses, they'd be a monopoly. If Ford ward the only company making SUVs, but you could buy cars and minivans from other sources, it wouldn't be a monopoly in any meaningful sense of the word.

Apple is the only company making Macs, but they don't have a meaningful monopoly because you can always use a PC.

Re:Business as usual (1)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347069)

Monopolies are relevant for discussion within a market, and satellite radio is a market distinct from other audio formats, so yes this is a 100% monopoly. Simply because buyers can find other things to listen to doesn't mean this isn't a monopoly or that the impact on consumers won't matter if they merge. Your argument amounts to "no one really wants this market anyway so why don't we let one company have the entire thing, you won't even notice, you can still buy iPods!"

First Post (-1, Redundant)

Doug52392 (1094585) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346039)

First POST :)

I kind of figured that was going to happen, knowing the FCC :)

Re:First Post (2, Funny)

teh moges (875080) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346111)

See kids, this is why you shouldn't say "first post", even if you think you are...

I think it's a good thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346045)

Wait, the FCC did something good?

WTF??? (1, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346055)

How could a single, monopolistic provider of a service, nationwide, be "a good thing for consumers and be in the public interest" ????

Has Orwellian doublespeak progressed so far??

Re:WTF??? (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346087)

Weren't their numbers in the toilet anyway?

I never really had a desire to pick it up and I wasn't impressed with any of my friends purchases.

I'm sure some people like the 24/7 larry the cable guy channel.

Now, I did consider XM when they had the PC interface, but that died with the product.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346335)

What do you mean it died? You can stream XM over the Internet and it even works on Linux with firefox assuming you have the wmp plugin of course.

I'm definitely a fan of XM, I like driving half way across the country without having to fiddle with the radio stations, it just works everywhere I go and no static.

XM has a lot of channels though with something for pretty much everyone. I hate sounding like a commercial for them but they really do blow terrestrial radio out of the water. For me these days it's XM and Pandora for 90% of my music listening time.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Enry (630) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346827)

I think the reference was to the USB dongle that would pick up XM signals directly and play them on your computer.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347671)

I don't know about music, but there are USB dongles that allow you to pick up weather and radar data from XM. Here's one [wxworx.com] . Storm chasers love these.

Re:WTF??? (1)

moseman (190361) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347135)

I'm sure some people like the 24/7 larry the cable guy channel.

OK My Kerry, you can sit down now eat some more brie.

Re:WTF??? (5, Insightful)

Giometrix (932993) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346107)

How could a single, monopolistic provider of a service, nationwide, be "a good thing for consumers and be in the public interest" ????

Has Orwellian doublespeak progressed so far??

Because Satellite Radio is not a monopoly; it is competing against FREE terrestrial radio, mp3 players, ipods, FREE internet radio, etc.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346349)

I'd care about sat radio if they carried one of the most awesome stations in the country, 89.5 FM WSOU [wsou.net] . Seton Hall Pirate Radio, winner of numerous awards, and some of the best DJs around for rock music.

It's the only station where you can hear Metallica played back to back with something newer like A Perfect Circle or Machine Head.

And on Sundays, Polka music!

Re:WTF??? (0, Troll)

giminy (94188) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346405)

Because Satellite Radio is not a monopoly; it is competing against FREE terrestrial radio, mp3 players, ipods, FREE internet radio, etc.

That's kind of like saying that Internet access is competing against FREE bulletin board systems. We saw how well BBSes fared through the early to mid 90s...

I dunno if maybe this just means that it's terrestrial radio's time to exit stage right. Maybe it is? It brings a little bit of sadness to my eyes though...hopefully nobody can fault me for that. And jeez, I'm talking like this and I'm not even thirty years old...

My trouble is, I guess, that we (you and I) own the radio spectrum [assuming that you are a US citizen ;-)]. The FCC should only give people access to this shared resource if those people are willing to play by a few ground rules. One of those ground rules should be healthy competition, e.g. the FCC should grant at least two companies access to the medium and spectrum in question, so that customers [not 'consumers', because I hate that word] deserve a choice. I worry if only one company will now have the ability to access this nifty service on our public airwaves...because while they may be competing with other services, it doesn't have the look and feel that they are competing on a level playing field. I certainly can't listen to terrestrial radio, mp3 players, ipods, nor internet radio under the same conditions that I can listen to satellite radio.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Enry (630) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346845)

I certainly can't listen to terrestrial radio, mp3 players, ipods, nor internet radio under the same conditions that I can listen to satellite radio.

Sorry, I can't parse that. Do you mind explaining what you mean?

Re:WTF??? (0)

mccabem (44513) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346585)

"FREE"....I don't think that word means what you think it means. ;-) $15/month is closer to free than what you're talking about. You're just not considering the real costs aside from simply monetary.

FWIW, I'm anti-merger on principal. If the satellite companies aren't making money, they have a few options in my book: Charge their customer's enough to make money; Increase their number of customers so they make money; Go non-profit so making money isn't the target. For crap's sake, their competition has hardly changed since they came out with their product - radio and TV aren't getting any "more free" after all and my internet bill has yet to go down. Did these fools even have a business plan??

I also have a hard time believing that satellite broadcasting can be cost efficient for entertainment at all - in terms of being a good business investment. They have and will continue to spend in-siz-nane amounts of money on satellites and the respective maintenance. Considering the massive floor that puts into their cost structure I don't see how they can ever fully compete with ground-based services.

To me higher prices are inevitable - in dollars from their subscribers, more advertising, or maybe more welfare from the government or their peers (GM, Hughes, et al) since they've been unusually good at that. If the business model is as bad as it seems from the industry's performance they should have been allowed to fail before they expended resources to start flying more satellites. Someone else likely could have put the resources to better use. I suppose that may still be true.

Last, from TFA: "The companies said they would introduce radios that receive both XM and Sirius channels." If memory serves, they said the same 10+ years ago. Can someone tell me why companies are allowed (seemingly encouraged) so often to act like petulant 5 year olds?

Sorry for being wordy. :)

-Matt

P.S. Can't resist one more word on their costs. The company that makes their satellites (SS/L) claims in their literature they have 48 of the satellites XM and Sirius use in orbit and separately that their satellites have 1100 years of successful on-orbit time. Assuming they've done their unleveled best to use the numbers to make themselves look good, that gives their satellites a top estimated average lifespan of only 20 years, probably less. Correct me if I'm wrong, but translated that means in at most another 10 years, SeriousExcem is already going to have to start replacing these satellites. Of course, none of the existing satellites will have a problem in the mean time.

Re:WTF??? (3, Insightful)

Enry (630) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346869)

For crap's sake, their competition has hardly changed since they came out with their product - radio and TV aren't getting any "more free" after all and my internet bill has yet to go down.

Aside from the arrival of HD Radio, the explosion of ipods and MP3 players, and Internet Radio, you're right.

Last, from TFA: "The companies said they would introduce radios that receive both XM and Sirius channels." If memory serves, they said the same 10+ years ago. Can someone tell me why companies are allowed (seemingly encouraged) so often to act like petulant 5 year olds?

Given neither Sirus nor XM were broadcasting until 7-8 years ago, I'm not sure how you could have heard that, or thought they would make compatible radios.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but translated that means in at most another 10 years, SeriousExcem is already going to have to start replacing these satellites. Of course, none of the existing satellites will have a problem in the mean time.

That's why at least XM and I think Sirius have launched new satellites recently, and yea, the life expectancy is about 20 years. So what?

Re:WTF??? (1)

TallMatthew (919136) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346939)

For months, I believed that satellite radio could not be considered a monopoly, for the reason cited above: namely, that it competes with terrestial radio and the like.

However, were this true, what would keep DirecTV from merging with Dish Network? It's an identical situation. I can tell you, after having to badger DirecTV for months to receive a promised refund (including filing through a chapter of the BBB which has been overwhelmed with DirecTV complaints), that competition is oftentimes preferable.

It is not a monopoly because others can enter (1)

howardd21 (1001567) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346991)

In addition to the issues others have already raised, that Satellite radio competes with other delivery forms (AM/FM, iPods, etc,) of the same basic service (music, news, etc.), what is keeping a new company from seeing an opening and starting up?

Re:It is not a monopoly because others can enter (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347089)

FCC licensing, enormous capital costs, enormous startup costs (you have to get people to buy your special receiver), etc.

Re:WTF??? (1)

jt2377 (933506) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346135)

HD Radio is here. It's not like XM-Siruis doesn't have to fight the free radio. It's radio after all. 90% of people probably buy HD radio and listen for free compare to paying monthly subscription.

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24347171)

nope, infact HD radio uptake is rather low. XM & Sirius blow the HD out of the water. HD is still limited to the tower, commercials, and no real special programming. XM & Sirius on the other hand are uncensored, cover a lot more area (you can drive from NY to LA without changing the channel), and at least in my market sound a ton better than HD FM. The HD FM here sounds like a cheap internet stream.

And yes, I deal with this stuff on a daily basis

Re:WTF??? (4, Insightful)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346149)

Its good because they were both unprofitable. Hopefully after the merger they will be able to be solvent. Satellite radio is awesome, whether anyone realizes it or not. There is NO CENSORSHIP WHAT-SO-EVER. I'd repeat some of the things said here, but I think my ISP would object. The company suits do not make music selections, unlike any other radio station on earth. No static, unlimited range, an entire channel dedicated to the grateful dead. Chill, house, ambient, thrash metal, punk, bluegrass, three types of jazz all at your finger tips, and even if you hate music they have a top 40 station, a brittish top 40 station, and a couple Canadian channels.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346193)

Good idea. Take two companies that can't pay the bills, and put them together. After a merger, all the suits stay, and they can half of the rest of the employees because they're redundant. So you get one company with twice the fat... and they'll be able to pay the bills *better* than the old companies?

Re:WTF??? (1)

Giometrix (932993) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346283)

Good idea. Take two companies that can't pay the bills, and put them together. After a merger, all the suits stay, and they can half of the rest of the employees because they're redundant. So you get one company with twice the fat... and they'll be able to pay the bills *better* than the old companies?

While in some ways there will be fat; now they won't be competing (or killing) each other paying for talent and licensing fees... $500m for Stern, $300m for Oprah, something similar for baseball, etc.

These people and services were playing the two companies against each other.... now they can't do that.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Isotopian (942850) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346373)

They couldn't pay the bills because they spent so much money sniping at each other. With their literal competition now gone, they can focus on the competition that matters - the terrestrial radio stations.

Re:WTF??? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346385)

"Good idea. Take two companies that can't pay the bills, and put them together. After a merger, all the suits stay, and they can half of the rest of the employees because they're redundant. So you get one company with twice the fat... and they'll be able to pay the bills *better* than the old companies?"

totally wrong. typically in mergers middle management gets cleaned out (because they are useless yet don't have enough clout in the company to hold onto their jobs) and board memembers take a golden parachute. your average employee if they are smart will reframe it as an opertunity and try jump into a promotion during the restructure.

i'm guess that's not you though....

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346409)

I think the point is that with essentially no competition, they'll be able to better control your experience. "fair and balanced"? you ain't seen nothing yet. As an aside, I've been considering buying a new car with the vendor-provided GPS service, but as I have comee to realize that's essentially a subscription to satellite radio, I'm less and less enthusiastic.

Re:WTF??? (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346619)

Typically in mergers half the suits leave, the politically weak get forced out or some see it as their chance to cash out and move on. What you'll end up with is a slightly larger company with many more customers, that's how you get profitability.

Re:WTF??? (1)

jevvim (826181) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346199)

Unlimited range? Try driving through West Virginia with satellite radio; you'll discover that mountains & trees are NOT friends with the service.

Re:WTF??? (3, Insightful)

dougisfunny (1200171) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346231)

Its probably still better than the Terrestrial radio I recall from the last time I went through the area.

Re:WTF??? (1)

rock56501 (1301287) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346565)

unlimited range

Unfortunately, I cannot listen to Sirius here in Hawaii. I had Sirius built in to my car when I lived on the mainland, but the only way to listen to it here in Hawaii is via the internet and I'm not going to pay for the internet.

Hopefully, in the future, they will get a satellite over the islands so that we can get a signal.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Thyamine (531612) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347049)

No censorship? Perhaps you are referring to some of the channels that host Howard Stern and such, but all of the music channels I listen to on XM still bleep out lyrics.

Re:WTF??? (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347165)

You can thank ClearChannel's involvement in XM for that.

Sirius does not censor music lyrics or anything else on ANY of their channels.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Giometrix (932993) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347221)

No censorship? Perhaps you are referring to some of the channels that host Howard Stern and such, but all of the music channels I listen to on XM still bleep out lyrics.

Only on the non XL channels. I see nothing wrong with that.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Secrity (742221) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347467)

I see a problem with censoring music lyrics on any channel, not just the XL channels.

Re:WTF??? (0)

ya really (1257084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346209)

No one seems to complain on here that much about the National Retirement Fund [ssa.gov] , the post office (though Canada's partial privitization of it has had lackluster results) or spoke out against the possibility of nationalized of health care in the US (by no means an endorsement by me of the job insurance companies do now). If one is going to critique monopolies, they have to look at both the private and public sector though. After all, slashdot of all places should know that just because something is solely in the hands of the "public" does not mean it has much more of an interest in the public than a private corporation.

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346277)

The Post Office does its job, and it does it well. It's certainly not the fastest, but your mail gets from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time. That's why nobody complains about it.

If only all government agencies would be like that.

Re:WTF??? (1, Offtopic)

ya really (1257084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346535)

Actually, there is a fairly legit criticism of the US post office that would probably have some support on slashdot if it were more widely known. Until 1912, mail was delivered on Sundays in the United States. However, religious leaders felt that it was hurting their attendence (and subsequently, their collection plates) and appealed to the government to stop delivery on Sunday. Post offices at that time doubled as public gathering places to socialize. Supporters of no-Sunday delivery still claim that the post office is closed to prevent a government subsidized agency from forcing Christians to work on Sunday, a protection of religious freedom. That however is obvious bullshit, since the post office does not close for any other religion. Even using that reasoning, it's a clear violation of the seperation of church and state.

For more details search google or check out this article [about.com] .

Re:WTF??? (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346599)

I'd guess no deliveries on Sunday is a cost savings move.

Re:WTF??? (1)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346417)

I think this IS in the public interest. With a unified service, you don't have to choose between the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, etc, since they will all be on one service. Also, it's not a monopoly. It's competing against regular free (and shitty) radio. Think about it. After they merge, they can't just charge more money and reduce service. People will just cancel and listen to regular radio or their own music players. That's their competition. The biggest opposition against the merger was the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which represents regular radio. Isn't it strange that the competition was against the merger? I think that's a good indication that this was a good move.

Re:WTF??? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346581)

You've got it backward, we had to choose between this and that because the two providers insisted on exclusive contracts, exclusive rights to broadcast this type of event, exclusive rights for this celebrity.

It was the idiot companies not acting in the best interests of the consumers in the first place that got us here, and you think with no competition it'll get better?

I challenge you to name one service that got better as the market narrowed, I can list several that got worse.

Microsoft
Bell/AT&T
OPEC
RIAA/MPAA
Any cable provider/ISP

Re:WTF??? (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346677)

Internet industries (pretty much any business model) of the late 90's needed to shed excessive competition to provide a workable long term service and the consolidation of retail has led to business models which are able to deliver better service to customers.

Re:WTF??? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347123)

Yeah, I don't think they have the pricing power for the merger to be worrisome. A lot of people don't think they are even worth $12 a month, so they aren't exactly go to attract a bunch of customers by increasing the prices.

Re:WTF??? (1)

homer_s (799572) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347465)

Another tell-tale sign that they wouldn't raise raters is that their competitors (terrestrial radio) are objecting to the merger.
Why would a competitor object to the merger if the new entity planned to raise rates and hence drive away customers? They object only because they know that the new entity will lower prices and attract new customers.

Re:WTF??? (2, Insightful)

LiquidHAL (801263) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346453)

A single satellite radio company is not really a "single, monopolistic provider of a service, nationwide" though. It's a direct competitor of traditional radio. It also competes with mp3 players and podcasts, CD's, audio books, etc. If they started any sort of monopolistic practices, people can just cancel their subscriptions and choose a multitude of other audio distribution methods. The justice department spent over a year investigating the issue and ruled that it would not in fact be a monopoly.

The two companies have lost hundreds of millions of dollars last year. At this point it may not be a question of two satellite radio companies or one, it's one company or none. And the "approval" is not a straight approval, it would require them to set aside a quarter of their bandwidth for their direct competitors. Which brings up an interesting point. Who has forced this issue to be delayed through various government agencies over the last two years? The National Association of Broadcasters. Not some consumer interest group, but an organization representing some of the largest companies in the country, who will be hurting most from this decision. Not because it's creating a monopoly, but because it has the potential to break the attempted (and FCC approved) monopolies of its clients in regional markets.

Satellite Radio is a joke (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346139)

When I think of satellite radio, I think of this:
*Major genres unrepresented.
*Station playlists that would become predictable within a week.
*Sub-genres within all genres utterly unrepresented in general (for example, one Metal station on all of Sirius, and it only plays death metal).
*A whole slew of stations essentially devoted to playing the exact same stuff that you hear on standard Top 40 radio.
*Commercials, despite being advertised as commercial-free.
*Annoying DJs (the receivers display the name/artist playing, you do NOT need DJs trying to be funny between every song).
*Oh, and a monthly fee on top of that.

Frankly, satellite radio was created 10 years too late. Why should I put up with satellite radio when I can use my mp3 player?

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (2, Interesting)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346191)

*Major genres unrepresented. *Station playlists that would become predictable within a week. *Sub-genres within all genres utterly unrepresented in general (for example, one Metal station on all of Sirius, and it only plays death metal). *A whole slew of stations essentially devoted to playing the exact same stuff that you hear on standard Top 40 radio. *Commercials, despite being advertised as commercial-free. *Annoying DJs (the receivers display the name/artist playing, you do NOT need DJs trying to be funny between every song). *Oh, and a monthly fee on top of that.

Unfortunately, consumer demand drives it. People listen to what's comfortable. I don't understand why the top40 stations are some of the most popular. Even the "indie" and punk stations play all the same crap. It's clearly selling though.

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (2, Interesting)

memiliesm (1329199) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346257)

Unfortunately, consumer demand drives it. People listen to what's comfortable. I don't understand why the top40 stations are some of the most popular. Even the "indie" and punk stations play all the same crap. It's clearly selling though.

There's not that much to understand, and you said it yourself- it's what's comfortable. Radio is listened to primarily (really, almost exclusively) in cars and in offices. It's a passive medium, just on in the background while the listener is doing something else.

That's why "shaking things up" rarely works in radio. For the most part, listeners don't want a challenge or to be actively entertained, they just want some inoffensive noise to keep them company.

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346269)

When I think of satellite radio, I think of this:
*Major genres unrepresented.
*Station playlists that would become predictable within a week.
*Sub-genres within all genres utterly unrepresented in general (for example, one Metal station on all of Sirius, and it only plays death metal).
*A whole slew of stations essentially devoted to playing the exact same stuff that you hear on standard Top 40 radio.
*Commercials, despite being advertised as commercial-free.
*Annoying DJs (the receivers display the name/artist playing, you do NOT need DJs trying to be funny between every song).
*Oh, and a monthly fee on top of that.

Frankly, satellite radio was created 10 years too late. Why should I put up with satellite radio when I can use my mp3 player?

Radio isn't just music. MP3 players can't give you live sports or talk yet (outside of local FM).

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346289)

Sports and talk are generally the realm of AM radio. While true that mp3 players aren't suited for either (though it could be argued that podcasts are the mp3 player equivalent of talk), using a shortwave radio you're damn well guaranteed to be able to be able to hear the game or catch talk radio no matter where you are. And there's no monthly fee for AM radio.

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (1)

loraksus (171574) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346555)

Radio isn't just music. MP3 players can't give you live sports or talk yet (outside of local FM).

Wrong audience.
People on /. will download the commercial free torrent 20 minutes after the game or bitch at each other right her on /. , thank you very much.

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (2, Insightful)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347247)

"Radio isn't just music. MP3 players can't give you live sports or talk yet (outside of local FM)."

Interesting you should make this point because the talk aspect is what kept me from even considering satellite radio. There's no such thing as local sports talk on satellite radio. National sports shows are ok but they generally talk far too often about college football teams I don't care about and sports leagues like the NBA that just aren't popular around here. You also can't pick up Clark Howard. At the time I let my free trial expire, there was also no local weather or traffic but I think they've done something about that. Back when I had the free trial, I spent maybe 10 minutes of my daily commute of 60-70 minutes listening to the satellite. The rest of the time was spent listening to AM. To be fair, I didn't touch the FM dial while I had satellite.

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (1)

altek (119814) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346441)

Why should I put up with satellite radio when I can use my mp3 player?

I think a lot of the points you make are true. I don't have satellite radio either, but for a lot of people there is a value in it that isn't valuable to you. It's that music isn't something they want to spend real mental energy or time or money on, building a collection, having and maintaining devices to transport and play it, learning of new bands and albums, etc. They just know that they like certain types and want to select those types at will, with minimal effort. Satellite radio does exactly that.

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (2, Interesting)

AbandonAllHope (211475) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346457)

*Major genres unrepresented.

Name 1. I dare you. A major genre must be a genre of music, let's say, more than 10,000 people in their market (The United States) listen to.

*Station playlists that would become predictable within a week.

No. Not even close. I have an XM system and the exact reason I have it is because the play lists are constantly in flux. Adding to the mix is that most stations have weekly radio shows that feature brand new (some of it without a label or release yet) music. An example if this is XM 82 The System's hosting of Armin van Buuren's A State of Trance. It doesn't get much fresher than the music he plays.

*Sub-genres within all genres utterly unrepresented in general (for example, one Metal station on all of Sirius, and it only plays death metal).

I'm sorry there isn't an entire channel devoted to speed metal, or 70's speed metal, or 70's speed metal by bands whose members included a man named Bart. Holy crap how can people be this picky?

*A whole slew of stations essentially devoted to playing the exact same stuff that you hear on standard Top 40 radio.

I assume you're also aware of the button on most SR receivers that forces you at gunpoint to listen to the stations you don't like (/sarcasm). Here's something you might also not be aware of : A LOT of people like that sort of music and have SR to listen to it on a nationwide, commercial free basis.

*Commercials, despite being advertised as commercial-free.

All of four XM stations have commercials. They will be gone once their contract with Clear Channel expires.

*Annoying DJs (the receivers display the name/artist playing, you do NOT need DJs trying to be funny between every song).

Most of the stations I listen to have few, if any, DJs. The DJ's name and the name of the program (For example The XMU After School Special With Toby) while she's talking and the instant the song starts the information changes. Most receivers also have the capacity to remember song names, so you can recall them later.

*Oh, and a monthly fee on top of that.

Oh, I forgot, I'm on slashdot where everything should be free and Economics is a dirty word. You're a real peach there Anonymous Coward - OH MY GOD A FEE HOW DAAAARE THEY BWAAAAAAAAAAAAA ADS TOO?!!?!? You can't have it both ways.

When I think of your post, I think this:
*Someone call this guy a wahmbulance.

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (1)

zumajim (681331) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346511)

I rely on radio (any kind of radio) for discovering new music. Your iPod/MP3 player isn't going to offer you anything you don't put on it. And I have to admit that I've heard a lot of great new stuff on XM since I subscribed last year. And no DJs and commercials either. Works for me.

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (2, Interesting)

Enry (630) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346891)

Have you ever listened to satellite radio? I'm not sure who modded you up, but they (and you) have no clue.

There's a few top-40 stations, but I never hear them. I have my favorite songs and groups programmed in and it'll alert me when any of them appear on any channel (try doing that, HD Radio).

There's a monthly fee. There's a monthly fee for your Internet service too I bet. So what?

I'm not sure where you get commercials from. A few stations have them, and I don't think any of the music ones on Sirius do (Clear Channel programs some on XM and thus do).

What genres are unrepresented? There seems to be a great mix.

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347433)

You must be a Sirius subscriber. I started out with them, but wanted the XM portable receiver. I'm very happy I switched. XM has 2-3 channels I would call "metal" (I'm not a good judge of that), 4 Jazz channels, 3 classical channels (with higher quality/bitrates than normal channels), a few channels that play all sorts of strange stuff. And their pop-style channels have a much larger playlist than what I heard on Sirius (I switched just after they picked up Stern so maybe things have changed, but it doesn't sound like it).

Re:Satellite Radio is a joke (1)

corychristison (951993) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347553)

You've obviously never been to a rural area.

I live in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Right now I am working as a distributor for a small company based in Moose Jaw.

My job, essentially, is to drive around the province as a specialized courier in a vehicle provided for me.

None of the vehicles have CD players, AUX in, or any options other than an AM/FM Tuner. And wearing headphones while driving is illegal in some places -- so an MP3 player is out of the question.

Sirius radio is more targeted towards this kind of market. I don't like having to press the seek button every hour or so.

My brother has two subscriptions. I have two subscriptions. My mom has one, and looking at getting another for her store. My sister and her husband are looking into it.

I, personally, think that Sirius/XM seem to know what their doing.

Satellite Radio isn't for you. If you don't like it, DON'T BUY IT. Simple as that.

No place to go. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346235)

I had considered XM radio then the merger rumors started to fly so I held back. The problem I have is supporting content I strongly dislike. I can't stand Howard Stern. Yes I know he's God to some people but it reminds me of high school and I escaped from that place a long time ago. I was thrilled when he went satellite but it did drop Sirus off the options list. Now if I get satellite period I have to help pay his over sized paycheck for being annoying. I realized most reading this are likely to be fans but he creeps me out. One of the reasons for preventing monopolies is to give you options. You get to vote with your money. My only vote left is to not financially support satellite radio and hope it goes away. Not much of a choice involved. Far more important than ala cart cable we need ala cart satellite radio. Then everyone has options. There are plenty of Sternies to keep him afloat and I can have my rock stations. I competely agree about DJs and I thought the point of Satellite was to avoid them as well as commercials? DJ are there to save a buck no matter what they claim. Their mindless chatter is cheaper than playing music. I'm stuck in Phoenix now and when I drive back to LA I notice a massive difference. Here there's at least half the air time that is DJs and commercials with little actual music. Two thirds is music in LA. If I'm paying a fee can't we have at least a handful of rock stations and not have a bloody playlist?

Re:No place to go. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346355)

I can't stand Howard Stern garbage either. I suspect that there were a fair number of XM users who felt this way, who will most likely let their membership expire now. So, in the end, it will be the Howard Stern radio with a some people who do not care. You would wonder if the accountants did a study to the number of people that he drove away versus those that he attracted. He really does poison satellite radio for me.

Re:No place to go. (2, Insightful)

Isotopian (942850) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346381)

Yeah, there are very few people who care THAT much that they'd drop their subscription because they didn't want to be able to NOT listen to Howard Stern.

Re:No place to go. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24347203)

then change the channel... that hard to do?

Re:No place to go. (1)

Enry (630) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346901)

My dad hates Stern with a passion (I like him, but that's just me). After listening to Sirius in my car for a while, he decided he wants it. He's had it and has enjoyed it for two years. I don't think he's ever once come across Stern by accident.

I don't like some of the channel selections that is on Sirius (I don't want my money going towards Fox News), but that's the choice I'm given. The benefits of Sirius outweighs the few pennies I send to Roger Ailes every months.

And yes, I can't stand O&A, but I won't cancel my subscription if they were on Sirius. Get over yourself.

Baba booey! Baba booey! (1)

memiliesm (1329199) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346265)

Sorry, someone had to do it.

There's always HD radio (1)

Newer Guy (520108) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346285)

You know...the one with: "The stations between the stations"? OK..never mind....

The problem is too much regulation (2, Interesting)

Affenkopf (949241) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346383)

Why did the FCC only grant two satellite licences? It's not like there's limited bandwith. Now that Sirius and XM merge and the FCC still doesn't allow new satellite companies there's no competition at all.

Re:The problem is too much regulation (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346483)

How come the FCC even has jurisdiction over satellite radio? (I guess on this case both companies are based in the US so have to fo;;ow US laws, but anybody from another country that can afford ut ciuld put up thier own satellite using Russian or Eurpean launches...)

Finally! (3, Insightful)

agwis (690872) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346387)

Ultimately this will benefit the consumer. I've subscribed to both companies and my preference is for talk radio/sports. The competition for paid subscribers forced the 2 companies to continually one-up each other for exclusive content and caused problems for me when one company would win the contract from another at renewal time (nascar, baseball, etc.) At one point I had to give up programming I enjoyed listening too or pay for a second receiver with a second subscription in order to keep it.

In the last few years, I've noticed the quality of the programming has deteriorated considerably as well. Once the companies are merged, all the duplicate costs for talent, administration, customer service, etc. should be eliminated and hopefully benefit the customers with a much improved service. My understanding is that nobody will even need to buy new hardware as the channels will be combined on your existing radio.

This is not a monopoly in the sense that we cannot get similar service from another provider. If you find satellite too expensive, or don't like what they have too offer, then get rid of it and listen to terrestrial radio, or your ipod, mp3 player, etc.

What I would be more concerned about than anything else to do with this merger is the question why did this take so long to pass? Oil companies have merged in a fraction of the time with minimal resistance compared to this one!

Re:Finally! (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347405)

The problem is that they did break regulations, and another was that the condition of the original license that they not merge, and only a few years later, they whine about the conditions that they themselves explicitly agreed to abide.

Also XM had more powerful repeaters than allowed, and they were not located where they said they would be when they applied to install them. They also allowed hardware licensees to produce FM transmitters that were a lot more powerful than the license allows. They've also been extremely generous to the CEO and other people with unnecessarily large perks in the time of supposed financial hardship - the hardship being in large people due to the actions of the people getting the perks!

Another is the fact that the new monopoly would make it needlessly hard for competitors to break into sat radio, not only is the infrastructure expensive, they've already demonstrated that they'll do anything to beat the newcomer out by spending ridiculous sums of money and violate their licenses to do so.

This is not a monopoly in the sense that we cannot get similar service from another provider. If you find satellite too expensive, or don't like what they have too offer, then get rid of it and listen to terrestrial radio, or your ipod, mp3 player, etc.

Those are not similar service except that they're all audio. Mp3 players can't tune live anything except through an FM tuner, and terrestrial radio is irritating to use on a trip, when you lose signal every 50-100 miles, you need to hunt around for another tolerable station, not to mention an excess of irritating ads. Maybe a similar service might be radio through cellular network, but that's not near maturity yet, there's no telling if it ever will be.

Ok, Mr. Genius (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346397)

From the post: FCC Chairman Kevin Martin confirmed the final vote Friday night. 'I think it's going to be, in the end, a good thing for consumers and be in the public interest,' he told The Associated Press."

"The greater the market share, the better it is for the customers" has never been true.

So, Mr. Martin, do you care to elaborate why this merger is in the public interest? Try hard, as it stands all your previous statements aren't good enough to fool a single slashdotter.

No Comparable Competition (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24346439)

The problem lies in the fact that now there is no comparable competition. If the customer wants unedited, uncensored satellite radio, they have only one choice. This gives the provider greater strength in the business transaction, seemingly unlimited freedom to add or change commercials, content or programing.

This is analogous to my internet provider. Although good, I have no choice except my current one if I want a speed higher than 5mbs. No one in my area offers anything comparable. I do realize that there are other providers, but they do not have the comparable speed, hence do not receive my patronage.

Internet Radio (2, Informative)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346537)

When you can stream a seemingly unlimited supply of internet radio straight to most connected devices, like the iPhone for one...
satellite radio seems almost quaint. How long will it be before "internet radio" puts satellite radio totally out of business?

BTW, for iPhone and iPod touch users, here's a good place to start:
http://www.seeqpod.com/ [seeqpod.com]

If you just want a radio gadget, there seem to be a few good ones available now:
http://www.google.com/search?client=googlet&q=portable%20internet%20radio [google.com]
Of course with these you can't play "kill your battery" using them over a 3G network... but then there's always the next thing..

Re:Internet Radio (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347355)

Except for one thing: streaming Internet radio only works if you pretty much close to standing still (e.g., if you are at a Wi-Fi "hotspot" or if your device is directly connected to broadband connction). If you driving--especially on long-distance trips--satellite radio is a better choice, especially west of the Mississippi River, where far fewer metropolitan areas exist.

Re:Internet Radio (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347393)

From AT&T's terms of service:

"Prohibited and Permissible Uses: Except as may otherwise be specifically permitted or prohibited for select data plans, data sessions may be conducted only for the following purposes: (i) Internet browsing; (ii) email; and (iii) intranet access (including access to corporate intranets, email, and individual productivity applications like customer relationship management, sales force, and field service automation). The Data Plans and Features MAY NOT be used for any other purpose. While most common uses for Intranet browsing, email and intranet access are permitted by your data plan, there are certain uses that cause extreme network capacity issues and interference with the network and are therefore prohibited. ...Accordingly, AT&T reserves the right to (i) limit throughput or amount of data transferred and/or deny, disconnect, modify and/or terminate Service, without notice, to anyone it believes is using the Service in any manner prohibited or whose usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels or hinders access to its wireless network, including without limitation, after a significant period of inactivity or after sessions of excessive usage and (ii) otherwise protect its wireless network from harm, compromised capacity or degradation in performance, which may impact legitimate data flows. You may not send solicitations to AT&T's wireless subscribers without their consent. You may not use the Services other than as intended by AT&T and applicable law. Plans are for individual, non-commercial use only and are not for resale. AT&T may, but is not required to, monitor your compliance, or the compliance of other subscribers, with AT&T's terms, conditions, or policies."

Just foggy enough to make it easy for them to lock you out. And, I've noticed that my Internet Radio application often times just gets stuck on "buffering" forever, even though I have excellent signal and haven't changed anything. I can't wait for the first iPhone streamer to post a rant to The Consumerist when they cancel his account for excessive bandwidth use.

Re:Internet Radio (1)

Secrity (742221) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347527)

For me there is no competition to satellite radio. XM and Sirius works in my car, internet radio doesn't -- and terrestrial radio sucks. I don't mind paying a reasonable subscription fee for satellite radio, but allowing them to become an unregulated monopoly is a very bad thing.

Stern: I Will Never Vote For a Democrat Again (3, Informative)

Coolhand2120 (1001761) | more than 6 years ago | (#24346669)

Howard Stern has some pretty choice words about the FCC's decision here: http://www.businessandmedia.org/articles/2008/20080724152511.aspx [businessandmedia.org]

Stern took it a step even further and called Democrats on the FCC "communists" and referred to their tactics as "gangsterism."

I don't necessarily agree with Stern, just adding some relevant info.

Re:Stern: I Will Never Vote For a Democrat Again (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347157)

Howard Stern has been whining about the merger since day one and and ranting about how it's not a monopoly. But it's all bullshit. The only thing he cares about is himself -- if the merger is approved it probably means more money for him. After one year on satellite he got an $82 million bonus because Sirius reached certain subscriber levels. If the merger doesn't go through Sirius might go under and he doesn't get the rest of his $500 million.

Re:Stern: I Will Never Vote For a Democrat Again (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347197)

If the merger doesn't go through, Sirius will keep going. It may be a struggle, but they'll keep going. It's XM that needs this merger to go through if they want to stay afloat.

If You Work For XM (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347185)

Kiss your ass goodbye.

For a long rime I could figure it out. Why would two companies, both losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year, want to merge? How does that make sense? Then I realized -- if Sirius gets XM's subscriber revenue (XM has more subscribers than Sirius) and eliminates as many XM employees as possible -- presto!! They are instantly profitable!

Re:If You Work For XM (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347241)

in that way it does make economical sense. If there are two companies in a market that are competing for business, with fickle customers that will change loyalties in a heartbeat for a coupon, you can be running on an unreasonably low margin. Merge them, and for one you can completely dump one of the marketing departments. If the services are similar enough you may even be able to remove some of the now redundant infrastructure. Satellites are expensive.

Re:If You Work For XM (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347293)

Except that most people can't switch with a coupon. If their factory installed stereo came from GM, it is ready for XM, not Sirius. If they drive a Dodge, Sirius not XM. While I agree that if someone specifically wants one service over the other, they would purchase on the after market, a large number of people just wouldn't bother if they didn't want the service their car comes with. It just isn't important enough for them to make the switch. And as one who regularly deals with the after market solution, I have to say it really clutters up the dash to have a satellite radio, tape adapter and power cables all over.

A single encoding/emission standard may have made the service a lot more popular. Imagine if your Delco FM radio didn't pick up stations that were transmitted in the RCA format.

give them a cookie! (2, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347225)

Tate had insisted that the companies settle charges that they violated FCC rules before she would approve the deal. The companies agreed this week to pay $19.7 million to the U.S. Treasury for violations related to radio receivers and ground-based signal repeaters.

Oh well that's different! They agreed to pay their fines! We should give them a reward for being such good little boys.

And when I go downtown to pay my speeding ticket I expect nothing less than a thank-you card and a candybar.

What's WRONG with these people?

At least the extortion fees were paid. (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347311)

Tate had insisted that the companies settle charges that they violated FCC rules before she would approve the deal. The companies agreed this week to pay $19.7 million to the U.S. Treasury for violations related to radio receivers and ground-based signal repeaters.

Erm... so the FCC basically held this over the companies' heads as a condition for approval? How does this differ from extortion [merriam-webster.com] again?

Lifetime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24347323)

Well i don't know about anyone else. But for a while sirius and evn XM have offered lifetime instead of a monthly fee. So i got into that last year. And As far as i know with the merger I will still have my lifetime. And all packages avaible to the new company. So i'm not complaining. And if sirius still offers the lifetime as of today. i'd get it soon :)
I think it's a great thing that's happening. For everyone. And people who have satalite radio seeme xcited

Going under (1)

Ceiynt (993620) | more than 6 years ago | (#24347559)

Ok, so now we will have one Sat Radio conglomirate. There compitition is free land radio and MP3 players. What happens when once again it is not profitable, and it desides to fold. Will good ol' Uncle Sam be there to say it's ok, we have to prop them up, for the good of the people?

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