Clear Channel asks FCC to censor satellite radio

This is a good one. The US Department of Justice approved the much-needed merger between XM and Sirius yesterday, leaving the final decision in the hands of the FCC.

Clear Channel wrote to the FCC, claiming that the only fair way to proceed would be to apply the same “decency” regulations to satellite radio that have always applied to AM and FM terrestrial radio.

From their request:

“One of the primary potential dangers to free, over-the-air radio posed by this merger is siphoning popular, including ‘edgy’ content, with consequent loss of advertising revenue. That potential harm is mitigated if broadcast decency rules were to apply to the merged entity. There is no constitutional bar to such a condition.”

Clear Channel’s implication is that obscene content is more highly demanded than “clean” content, and without obscene content, terrestrial radio can’t compete. This is an exaggeration, of course. But it brings up an interesting point.

If this bears much truth, doesn’t it imply that the FCC’s censorship for over-the-air broadcasts should be revoked? If the market is demanding obscene content, and subsets of the market (satellite radio, HBO, Showtime, etc.) have demonstrated that it can be executed well without invoking the apocalypse, why continue to enforce legislative censorship?

Clear Channel’s argument shouldn’t be to censor everyone equally — they should be arguing for the revocation of all censorship of media.

They’re not arguing that, of course, because they didn’t file this complaint because they wanted to do the right thing. They’re trying to drum up religious-fanatic political support to pressure the FCC to maintain Clear Channel’s monopoly.

As you can expect from a massive corporation enjoying a monopoly enabled by governmental deregulation, their lobbyists’ jobs are to whine as much as possible that any unfavorable policy change will spell doom for their business.

Satellite radio has provided some competition to terrestrial radio, but it’s not sustainable. Sirius and XM have repeatedly had near-fatal financial problems, and their competition is bad for consumers having to choose one or the other (and then getting locked out of content exclusive to the other distributor).

Clear Channel doesn’t want equal censorship — they want to eliminate competition. They know that if this merger is denied, at least one of the satellite radio companies (and probably both) will be out of business within a decade.

Clear Channel’s whining on the merger, like most lobbyist rhetoric, is complete bullshit.