Brownback Targets Sat Radio Merger in Letter

The pending merger between XM and Sirius took an unexpected turn this week on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) wrote Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asking that the committee leader secure an un-censored copy of a letter from a group fighting the proposed satellite radio merger. That letter, sent to the Federal Communications Commission in late May, was from the Consumer Coalition for Competition in Satellite Radio, and took issue with - among other things - the companies' past handling of interoperable radios capable of receiving both services.

The letter had parts redacted to protect sensitive company information.

Brownback, a member of the Judiciary Committee and its Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition and Consumer Rights, said the letter raises issues that are important "in our oversight of the enforcement of our nation's antitrust laws." He also suggested that the committee should investigate the matter "before the FCC reaches its final decision on the proposed merger."

Brownback added, "I am very troubled by the notion that Congress may have been misled in its prior hearings on this merger." The Republican senator also said it may be necessary to subpoena the letter in its unrestricted form.

"The Judiciary Committee must be confident that all the important antitrust issues before both the U.S. Department of Justice and the FCC have been properly considered before a final merger approval is given," Brownback said.

The companies had no direct response to the Brownback letter, but instead pointed to filings made at the FCC on the interoperable radio issue. Those comments backed previous efforts on the interoperable radio front made by the companies.