You are David Rehr and it appears that you’ve already lost the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) its biggest battle.
You couldn’t block the XM-Sirius satellite radio merger.
Rehr’s day went to Hell on Wednesday when analyst group Cowen & Company bet on the XM-Sirius deal getting approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The final decision is roughly eight weeks away but one C&C analyst predicted the DOJ could make this one a done deal in just four.
The FCC has to sign off on the merger, too, but it’s unlikely that their decision would differ from the DOJ’s.
The Motley Fool also predicted the merger’s a given and suggested that its followers should invest accordingly.
Even former FCC commissioner Mark Fowler is backing it.
What happened, David Rehr?
The NAB is supposed own the FCC – past, present, and future.
Rehr blew it badly. The merger plans, which would result in one company with a combined total of roughly 15 million subscribers, were laid out for the world to see back in February.
That gave him close to a half a year to rally Capitol Hill to his side.
There were no secrets. XM and Sirius claimed the merger would not be a monopoly since they compete with terrestrial radio, Internet radio, and MP3 players. That’s what they focused on and never deviated from that claim.
In response, the unfocused David Rehr who looks like David Johansen impersonated still another David – David Byrne and danced around the merger issues like Byrne did on the Talking Heads video, “Once in a Lifetime.”
It’s taken him just two years to go from the NAB’s hopeful hero to a hopeless zero.
Sometimes it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.
Rehr had all the charisma of dead fish when he pitched Capitol Hill. And Mel Karmazin was Mel Karmazin. No contest.
The NAB argued that the satellite radio merger would create a "state-sanctioned" monopoly, which would be bad for consumers, and would harm local (and he emphasized local over and over and over again) radio stations nationwide. "Monopolists have the ability to raise prices and discriminate," he said. His argument was as believable as anything Gen. David Petraeus told Congress.
XM, Sirius and the NAB hired lobbyists to defend their positions. Sirius spent $650,000 between January and June and XM tossed in $580,000 and, combined, had total 13 different lobbying firms doing their influence peddling. The Palmetto Group got the bulk of XM’s cash - $70,000 – while Wiley Rein, the lead dog lobbyer for Sirius, received $420,000. Other lobbyists employed by XM and Sirius included Mehlman Capitol Strategies, run by former GOP National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and Quinn, Gillepsie & Associates, led by Jack Quinn, the former chief of staff to former Vice President Al Gore.
The NAB spent a staggering $4.3 million for lobbyists during the same period. It spread the business out to ten firms, with the lion’s share going to – and you’re not going to believe this – the Ashcroft Group, headed up by former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Let’s back up for a moment.
John Ashcroft representing the National Association of Broadcasters? What was Rehr drinking?
The same NAB that’s backing CBS-TV’s argument over the $550,000 fine levied by the FCC for Janet Jackson’s nipple slip during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show hired John Ashcroft?
This is the same John Ashcroft who spent $8,000 for drapes to cover the exposed right breast of the 75- year old Spirit of Justice statue in the Justice Department’s Great Hall. He dropped an additional $2,000 on consultants to assure that the statue’s nipple wouldn’t indent the drapes.
(A second statue, the male Majesty of Justice, with its sculptured strategically-draped cloth, was not considered offensive by Ashcroft.)
Ashcroft deflected all questions to a minion who issued a statement that said it was done for “aesthetic purposes.”
This is one sick puppy.
You have to question what kind of lifestyle a conservative Republican who plays the family values card really has.
John Ashcroft. Rhymes with Larry Craig? Or is it David Vitter? Maybe Mark Foley?
So Rehr who’s claiming he’s just alright with Janet Jackson’s right breast and ornamentally enhanced nipple teamed up with John Ashcroft whose Jesus is just alright – but the Majesty of Justice’s right breast and non-ornamentally enhanced nipple is not.
From Nipplegate to Nipplehate.
Rehr also called in a favor for a quote from outré-conservative Senator and Presidential candidate Sam Brownback (R-Kan). He claimed the deal would "not serve the public interest."
How does it feel to be David Rehr?
He outspent XM-Sirius’ lobby expenses by over $2.7 million – and lost? Who’s Rehr’s accountant? Tom Noe?
Rehr can’t read the room. He turned over the NAB’s entire lobbying budget to the conservative wing of the GOP when polls show their integrity locked in the sub-basement.
He has tire tracks up and down his back from all the times Mel’s crew has thrown him under the bus the past seven months.
While Rehr tanked whatever influence the NAB had on Capitol Hill, XM shares rose 70 cents to $14.32, and Sirius was up 16 cents, or 4.8 percent, to $3.47.
When the going gets tough – Rehr fetches David Wharton, his executive VP of media relations to cover his ass. “In Mel Karmazin's world, elevator music is competition to satellite radio," he said. "Get real. It doesn't pass the laugh test.”
All Whatron confirmed was that he wouldn’t even be considered for an audition to NBC’s Last Comic Standing.
$4.3 million. Money for nothing. Mark Knopfler should rewrite the lyrics just for you, Mr. Rehr.