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Fear the mobile device mandate monster, now with HD Radio too!

By Universal Studios (Frankenstein promotional photo) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

via wikimedia commons

I stand in awe at the sheer number of features the National Association of Broadcasters and its members want mandated on cell phones. First they’re proposing that Congress pass a law hotwiring an FM radio chip into every mobile. Broadcasters are also talking about a TV tuner requirement. And now they also want HD!

Here’s the recommendation [italics added]:

“Congressionally-mandated radio-activated chips in mobile devices such as cell phones and BlackBerry smartphones, with an acceptable phase-in period and inclusion of HD Radio chips when economically feasible.”

The last time anybody mentioned an HD chip mandate, it was Clear Channel and Ibiquity trying to get it in Sirius XM satellite radio tuners (the FCC launched a Notice of Inquiry on the question and let the issue die).

This is all part of the NAB’s proposal to the musicFIRST coalition for conditions that would make it acceptable for broadcast radio stations to pay royalties to the performers whose music they air. musicFIRST represents the artists and labels. The broadcaster “term sheet” offers much lower royalties that the proposed Performance Rights Act, which has been going nowhere in Congress for about a year.

And that’s probably why musicFIRST has rejected the offer.

“MusicFIRST has completed a preliminary analysis of the new term sheet. In it the radio broadcasters unilaterally cut their digital royalty rates and lowered their terrestrial royalty payment. Those changes by themselves undermine the fundamental economic equation that was core to the July agreement [apparently the two sides had a big negotiating session in July]. The NAB’s term sheet gives the idea of a sweetheart deal a bad name. It might even be worse for the music community than the status quo.”

“Fortunately, Congress writes the laws, not trade associations like the NAB. The musicFIRST Coalition will continue to press forward.”

“The bottom line is that no recording artist should be forced to give up their work without consent or compensation, a fact now acknowledged by the NAB’s vote. The musicFIRST Coalition will continue and expand our campaign until this fundamental unfairness is corrected. Radio is the only platform in the United States that doesn’t pay performers. The music community will find it difficult, if not impossible, to support legislative efforts to expand the reach of terrestrial radio so long as this glaring unfairness continues.”

It’s unclear to me what’s going to happen next in this  drama. Maybe NAB will cough up a higher royalty rate? But trying to get Congress to mandate three different broadcasting technologies in smart phones . . . what’s going on here? Is this an industry in a state of total desperation?


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2 Responses to Fear the mobile device mandate monster, now with HD Radio too!

  1. Greg October 27, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    With the CTIA and the CEA firmly agsint any mandate, there is no way this would ever happen. The president of the CEA said there isn’t one Congressman that would support this idea:

    http://static.arstechnica.com/NAB%20BoardMeetingLetter.pdf

    LOL! What is realy going on is that many of the NRSC/NAB Board Members are investors in iBiquity, and are willing to throw the radio industry under-the-bus for an iBiquity IPO.

  2. John Anderson October 28, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    There will be no iBiquity IPO; the company (and its technology) is too far gone for that. iBiquity had to R&D its own chipsets to make portable HD receivers.

    The consumer electronics industry’s recalcitrance on this front is justified; it tried to warn regulators away from IBOC/HD but got the smackdown from the radio industry, when it was riding high on post-1996 profits. CEA et. al. took the long view, didn’t commit to mass-marketing HD-compatible products, and the result is what we have today.

    This is a Hail Mary-style effort to jumpstart HD’s proliferation, which is actually contracting.

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