The satellite radio scene got bumped to a bigger blip on the radar in large part because of the announcement this week that the Justice Department’s anti-trust busters have given the proposed $4.6-billion merger of Sirius and XM corporations a hearty thumbs-up.

Chances are this doesn’t mean much to most people who receive their radiowaves terrestrially, but as a long-time Sirius subscriber I’m paying it some attention, primarily because of the rumors I’ve heard that should the merger be approved by the FCC, my current Sirius equipment might become obsolete in that I would still receive Sirius programming, but not whatever former-XM channels get ported over. In order to do that I would of course need to “upgrade” my hardware at a cha-ching of a several hundies.

Coincidentally this morning I got a call from a Sirius telemarketer looking to send me a new free radio with a 45% discounted additional subscription ($irius is $et up in $uch a way that one can’t get a new radio added to a current $ub$cription; each box need$ to have it$ own… but that’$ another topic entirely and all right I’ll stop it with the dollar signs).

I expressed my concern to the telemarketer as to buying equipment now that might be programming impaired post-merger and the representative put me on with her supervisor who assured me that would not happen, and when I asked him to provide me with something in writing, he instead directed me to where he told me the writing I sought was there in black and white.

Sort of.

Here’s what Sirius has posted:

“If our merger is approved, the combined company will offer consumers the best of each service on your current radio – at a price well below the cost of the two services today.”

Sounds good, right? On the surface yeah, but my skepticality looks at “best of each service on your current radio” and sees a position that craftily reinforces the separation of the two entities. Notice the use of “each” and the singular “service” instead of “both” and “services.” Big difference.

But wait, there’s more at the bottom of that page:

“We guarantee no radio will become obsolete. Your current radio will continue to provide you with the programming you enjoy, whether you keep your current service or change to a new subscription plan. “

Again at first glance this looks solid. But on second pass it’s basically a thinly veiled statement of the obvious that tells me Sirius radios will continue to receive Sirius programming and XM radios will continue to receive XM programming.

As a result of that cagy language and at Sirius’ invitation I utilized a form letter page on their website to send the following email to my elected officials in Washington, DC, and the FCC, with the subject line: Concerns About Hardware Obsolesence Following Sirius/XM Merger.

Honorable Senators, Representative, and the FCC:

In the guarantee posted to the Sirius website, it states:

“…that that no Sirius radio will become obsolete as a result of the merger. The two companies have millions of radios in the market, including many that are factory-installed in automobiles. After the merger, you will not need another radio to continue to receive the programming you now enjoy.”

This statement is ambiguous and frankly disingenuous in that it does not specifically address new programming. While I understand that my current Sirius hardware will continue to receive the Sirius programming I presently access, what remains unaddressed and vague is whether or not that hardware will allow me to access any new programming brought over from the former XM.

I am a long-time and mostly satisfied Sirius subscriber but since the buyout was announced  I have abstained and will continue to abstain from purchasing new hardware in this pre-merger interim. I am satisfied that existing Sirius programming will be available to me with my old radio, but I’m not going to upgrade my equipment if there’s even the slightest doubt that it will not support any new programming should the merger be completed.

Unless this is specifically addressed by Sirius I will wait out the merger before buying rather than buy now only to be forced buy again to enjoy any combined programming — which would not happen because I would cancel my subscription rather than allow myself to suffer such bait-and-switch tactics.

William Campbell