The FCC waited until just before 9 p.m. ET Friday evening (July 25) to announce the long-awaited merger between Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio was approved by a 3-2 conditional vote by the Commissioners, clearing the way for one big satellite company to beam programming to the continental United States.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin, who originally said he backed the plan on June 16 but issued an eigh-point list on conditions for the companies to meet, convinced fellow Republicans Robert McDowell and then, finally on Friday evening, Deborah Taylor Tate to accept the plan.

"The merger is in the public interest and will provide consumers with greater flexibility and choices," said Martin in a statement. "Consumers will enjoy a variety of programming at reduced prices and more diversified programming choices. It will also spur innovation and advance the development and use of interoperable radios, bringing more flexible programming options to all subscribers."

"I am pleased that before acting on this merger, the Commission first finalized our enforcement proceeding against two companies that have flagrantly violated FCC rules and regulations," Tate said in a statement.

As one of her conditions -- and perhaps the most expensive condition that the satcasters had to agree to -- Tate wanted the FCC's Enforcement Bureau to conclude its investigation of XM and Sirius placing sometimes-overpowered terrestrial repeaters in unauthorized locations. On Thursday, the satcasters announced that XM would pay a $17 million fine and that Sirius would give the U.S. Treasury $2 million.

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