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Satellite-radio merger approval recommended

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is recommending approval of the $5 billion merger between the nation's two satellite radio broadcasters in exchange for concessions that include turning over 24 channels to noncommercial and minority programming, The Associated Press has learned.

That condition — along with others, including a three-year price freeze for consumers — convinced FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on Sunday to recommend approval for Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.'s buyout of rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. The deal affects millions of subscribers who pay to hear music, news, sports and talk programming, largely free from advertising, in homes and vehicles.

Martin's recommendation sets the stage for a final vote on the closely watched merger, which could occur any time after his recommendation is circulated among his fellow commissioners.