The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) approved the merger of satellite radio providers Sirius and XM. The merger has been in the works since last February, and now that the government's antitrust division has given the all-clear, the final hurdle is the FCC.

Initial rumors about the deal popped up in mid-2006, with both companies' CEOs admitting it would be necessary to combat the growing competition from conventional radio, online radio and downloaded music. End-users should see the benefit in terms of more channels and possibly lower prices, as the merger will reduce operating costs as XM and Sirius combine.

The DOJ's approval is required before nearly any major merger can be completed. An in-depth examination of the satellite radio industry led the DOJ to conclude that the merger would not, on the whole, be anti-competitive, reports CNN. With DOJ approval out of the way, the two companies must gain the blessing of the FCC before the deal can be completed.

FCC approval is expected by the end of March. According to Bloomberg, in a press conference on the 20th of this month, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin backed away from earlier comments that the merger decision would be announced by the end of the first quarter. "I'm not sure we'll make it by the end of the first quarter any longer. I've got the staff drafting various options. I haven't figured out what I think we should do on it yet." Nevertheless, Martin said that once the DOJ had made a decision, things would "go forward quickly after that."