A Cell Phone Mandate

There is a bill pending in Congress to require FM radios in cell phones.

The FM chip mandate is an attempt to mollify the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters); under the terms of the Performance Rights Act, the [broadcast- ed.] industry would pay approximately $100 million to broadcast music on terrestrial radio. The inclusion of FM chips in all mobile devices would purportedly give broadcasters access to a wider audience. But it's the consumer companies (and by extension, the consumer) who get the shaft in this deal.

This is little more than a government-mandated crutch for a legacy technology--no better than the EPA's attempts to legislate a longer lifespan for incandescent lifebulbs. The high popularity of Sirius, XM, and internet radio shows where the market is headed. This new government mandate apparently removes a "competitive disadvantage" (to quote an EPA spokesman) for AM/FM Radio.

CEA President Gary Shapiro is furious, and rightfully so. "The backroom scheme of the [National Association of Broadcasters] and RIAA to have Congress mandate broadcast radios in portable devices, including mobile phones, is the height of absurdity," he said. "Rather than adapt to the digital marketplace, NAB and RIAA act like buggy-whip industries that refuse to innovate and seek to impose penalties on those that do." It's understandable that Shapiro would feel blindsided, since the CEA (the very companies to implement the FM chips) wasn't consulted.

Having worked in the music industry a long time ago: juke box servicing, juke box mfg., Chief Engineer at a radio station, I can tell you the whole industry is totally mobbed up. I was just discussing it with my mom who used to know a lot of the people in the industry in Omaha and she agrees.

And now the criminals get to whisper in the ears of our government. And just to get a political dig in: is it any surprise when the head of our government comes from one of the most mobbed up cities in the nation?

And who is going to pay for another chip that must be included in the cell phones? Well it is not going to be the music industry. Plus, I wonder if they have considered the antenna issues?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 08.18.10 at 11:25 PM


Last phone I had was FM capable - but needed the earpiece for the antenna.

But you know, when I get a phone whether the thing can do FM is not a concern. I very much dislike the current AM and FM specturms - you get two songs, five minutes of commercials and inane DJ chatter, then two songs, five minutes of traffic and weather and MORE commercials and DJ chatter.

Then two songs. Screw it. When sat radio came out, I went for it. I don't mind paying for music - what I mind is being interrupted constantly. And that's ALL you get with broadcast radio, whether it be HD radio or regular broadcast.

Now, how much will the FM chip add? Likely much less than a buck each. But it's going to require a wired earpiece for the antenna, and most folks would rather use bluetooth... so this whole thing is a ridiculous thing to make mandatory.

JLawson   ·  August 19, 2010 10:52 AM

The thuggery of certain sectors, with their legislative counterparts in tow, has been on exhibit for decades. What is more egregious, nurses' unions demanding feather-bedding for their members, or equipment manufacturers demanding federal mandates for tech roll-outs?

Some have problems detecting the attractiveness of current fads, and replace sound thinking with trendy thinking. Radio is just an example of the nexus of corporate thuggery and trendy thinking dressed-up as a "good idea."

There is a well-funded effort underway to gadgetize the AM and FM bands. Currently, one can receive and listen to either bands with a modest investment in a discrete device known as a radio. But I out myself as old-fashioned, since I submit that the greatest indicator of value is price. Several years ago I purchased a small radio, with an ability to access both radio bands, and here's the thing, a five inch television screen for watching TV, for $19.95.

I can run it on batteries or household current. I think it's brilliant. It's cheap. It's dependable. It works. No adapters, no plug-ins, it works and is cheap.

Radio works because it is simple. Currently, radio's reach is around 92 percent. Cheaply and dependably delivered around the country without charge to the end user. Why would I want a radio in my phone? What if I like listening to music when I talk? Hmm. We'll need an app for that.

I can see into the future. You can, too.

I see a future where our kitchens have devices that maintain temperatures at a level where food spoilage is retarded, and offer a compartment to freeze foods and liquids, both to extend the period of reduced food spoilage and, to create cold or frozen treats. I will call this a refrigerator.

Unlike the gadgets being proposed by thugs, this refrigerator will continue to be a discrete, dependable appliance, without any major changes or modifications, for centuries. Or, as long as civilization lasts. Your prognostication may vary.

If we made refrigerators the way we make gadgets, no one would own one. Works here, doesn't work there. Worked awhile ago, doesn't work now. Radio stations fade in and out as you move around. But, the radio is always working. It's simple, dependable and cheap. And there are no apps needed. It is radio's sheer simplicity that drives the thugs, the hucksters and the gadget crowd mad.

Wait until they get their hands on your refrigerator.

OregonGuy   ·  August 19, 2010 12:43 PM

Here's why the NAB and RIAA want radio chips in your phone.

You are not the consumer, you are the product.

If there's radios in every piece of CE gear, then they can claim much higher penetration, and raise ad rates.

That's all this is.

brian   ·  August 19, 2010 1:02 PM

Simon- I've seen you post comments about your concern over foreclosures in your town. Have you blogged about this? Just curious.

SteveBrooklineMA   ·  August 19, 2010 9:51 PM


No. Chalk it up to cowardice. I only post in comment sections about the locals and do not write blog posts about them so as to avoid attracting attention.

Of course there is always a chance but one I'm willing to take since generally comments are not widely read. Even if the locals notice they can write it off as inconsequential.

Blog posts are different.

M. Simon   ·  August 20, 2010 12:05 AM

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