The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has been pulling out all the stops in fighting the proposed merger between XM and Sirius. What's most amusing is that the NAB's active involvement in the campaign against the merger weakens its own argument. After all, if XM and Sirius really would represent a monopoly, then doesn't that mean that the terrestrial broadcasters the NAB represents don't compete with XM and Sirius and therefore shouldn't care about the merger? Yet, the NAB keeps on fighting despite this rather obvious problem
with its position. It seems as though the NAB can't resist pulling out just about every dirty trick in the playbook. It set up astroturf groups
to create a pretend grassroots campaign against the merger. It also paid for a "independent" report
from a research firm who had previously
claimed that terrestrial radio and satellite radio competed -- but quickly changed its tune when the NAB was funding a study.
The latest is that, in the tradition of many other
astroturfing campaigns, it bombarded the FCC with letters from "real people" against the merger. There's just one big problem. It would appear that many of those people have no idea they wrote the FCC, and some even claim they're in favor of the merger. That's what a Washington Post investigation found
when it tried to track down the people who supposedly used the NAB's spam-o-matic website to protest the merger. Most of the people couldn't even be reached at all, suggesting that they might not even exist. Of those who were actually reached, nine out of ten claimed they had nothing to do with contacting the FCC and the 10th says she remembered reading something about the merger but doesn't remember protesting it to the FCC.
The NAB insists that its program is perfectly legitimate, and that the emailers all meant to protest the merger. An NAB spokesperson claimed: "It was a fairly rigorous process." How rigorous? Take a look at some of the quotes from folks who the NAB claims are absolutely against the merger and then let us know just how "rigorous" the process was:
- "How did they get my name? I don't want someone using my name for something I don't even know about."
- "No sir, I never sent any notes to Washington. This call is the first time I've heard of this."
- "I never sent an e-mail. I don't even know about the issue."
- "I don't know what the merger is about and I don't care. I have no idea what you're talking about."
- "Where did they get my name? If anything, I'd be for [the merger]."
Quite rigorous over there at the NAB, huh?