Last post we laid out the reasons (both purported and real) commercial radio broadcasters are trying to block the proposed merger of XM and SIRIUS satellite radio. Now let's get down to cases.
First up, an informational site -- xmsiriusmonopoly.org. If you just stumbled on the site, and didn't look to closely, you might get the impression that this is a grassroots protest site, but its not. The National Association of Broadcasters run it, and their logo's at the bottom of the page for all to see.
As you might expect, the news articles all have a particular slant. Some you can check, some you can't. The New York Times pieces, for example, are available by subscription only. As with any of these sites (even the pro-merger ones), it's always best not to take things at face value.
For example, one of the articles you can click through to is a USA Today op-ed piece by Jimmy Schaeffler, a recognized telecommunications expert. His bio says he's associated with the Carmel Group, whose principal clients are satellite TV providers. So does that matter?
Well, as it turns out, DirecTV offers XM programming as part of their service, and the DISH Network streams SIRIUS. So if the merger goes through, instead of these two satellite TV services playing XM and SIRIUS against each other for privilege of carrying their programming, they'll have to deal with a single provider. So the real concern isn't about a monopoly to the consumer, its about a monopoly to satellite TV providers.
Still, the site doesn't disguise its relationship to the NAB, so it's to be expected that the contents push their agenda.
But how about the Consumer Coalition for Competition in Satellite Radio? Everything on the site suggests that it's a grassroots movement by satellite radio subscribers upset about the merger. when I looked over the sign up page, though, I saw something out of place. It was a menu listing for HD Radio. With the exception of broadcasters who continually tout HD Radio, I have yet to run across anyone not professionally involved with broadcasting who's more than marginally aware of it, let alone considers it an important source for content. (And its not just me - here's how it stacks up in consumer awareness.)
The Corporate Crime Reporter did some serious digging, and published an interview with the founder of the movement, Chris Reale. In their report, they note
The purpose of this post isn't to vilify the NAB, but just to make a simple point. There are citizens pushing for change, and vested interests posing as citizens pushing for change. The beauty of the Internet is that it doesn't take a lot of effort to discover which is which.
Reale works full time at Williams Mullen Strategies - the lobbying arm of the Williams Mullen law firm - whose communications practice is headed by Julian Shepard - a former assistant general counsel at NAB."
Reale won't say who is funding his "consumer group," but he says the NAB "supports" the group.
He refuses to identify the nature of NAB's support.