WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department on Monday approved Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.'s proposed $5 billion buyout of rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., saying the deal was unlikely to hurt competition or consumers.
The deal was approved without conditions despite opposition from consumer groups and an intense lobbying campaign by the land-based radio industry.
The deal still requires approval from the Federal Communications Commission, which prohibited a merger when it granted satellite radio operating licenses in 1997.
The Justice Department said in a statement the combination of the companies won't hurt competition because the companies are not competing. Customers must buy equipment that is exclusive to either XM or Sirius, and subscribers rarely switch providers.
"People just don't do that," said assistant attorney general Thomas Barnett, in a conference call with reporters.
The government also appeared to endorse the argument that the companies compete with other forms of audio entertainment, including "high-definition" radio, Internet-based radio and even devices like Apple Inc.'s iPod.
"The likely evolution of technology in the future, including the expected introduction in the next several years of mobile broadband Internet devices, made it even more unlikely that the transaction would harm consumers in the longer term," the Justice Department said.