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Who will get those Sirius XM minority channels?

Sirius XM Inc.

Sirius XM Inc.

Sirius XM radio has a tricky task ahead of it. The satellite broadcaster still has to figure out who is going to get those “qualified entity” channels that it promised to lease out to minority broadcasters when the Federal Communications Commission gave its two halves permission to marry last July. The FCC is supposed to provide guidance, but keeps pushing the decision off, probably because it has yet to figure out the legal logistics of using affirmative action to award various applicants the channels, without running afoul of various legal rulings that restrict government activity in this area.

It has been a bad couple of days for Sirius XM. The broadcaster just rolled out an app for the iPhone, but critics quickly pointed out that it doesn’t include Howard Stern. And Orbitcast reports that the company is transferring royalty fee charges to its subscribers. So this qualified entity sticky wicket is probably the last thing with which the company wants to deal.

Howard University

Howard University

A lot of broadcasters have shown some interest, though. We are talking about 4 percent of the full time audio channels on Sirius and XM’s platforms here —a minimum of twelve channels all told. The applicants include Howard University, the RSS Spanish language network, Entravision, and Radio One. The last contestant is probably the best equipped to handle this resource, since it already manages over 50 minority oriented radio stations nationally.

But lots of questions remain unanswered—like how will these minority entities “monetize” their leased channels? Will they be allowed to run ads? The issue has always been a sore point for Sirius XM fans. So there’s a case here for letting Howard run the show on a non-commercial basis, if the campus wants to do that.

In any event, the FCC keeps kicking this poor pooch down the road. The new deadline it has given itself to come up with some guidelines is June 29—ten days from now.


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