Perusing various Federal Communications Commission’s proceedings, a coordinated campaign of state broadcasting association visits caught my eye. They’re all omnibus do-this do-that advisory statements that cross many dockets, but interestingly, a few urge the agency to “look into” the question of getting FM tuner chips in cell phones.
Here’s the California Broadcasters Association’s input on this question, following a meeting between nine California broadcasters and four top FCC staffers.
“CBA radio broadcasters mentioned the importance of the FM chip and the issue that wireless carriers control the services available in their mobile devices. It was stated that in other countries, the FM chip is automatically activated. In the U.S., most mobile service providers turn it off. Given the importance of radio in times of emergencies, a request was made to look into the situation. It was acknowledged that the Commission’s jurisdiction may be limited here, but that it should nevertheless more thoroughly investigate the situation.”
Ditto says the New Jersey Broadcasters Association:
“Participants discussed the merits of FM chips in mobile devices. In particular, NJBA urged the Commission to promote public access to broadcast signals on cell phones. NJBA believes that broadcast is the best way to reach large audiences during emergencies and that FM chips placed in cell phones would be a vital resource for consumers.”
Neither of these groups went so far as to say, “Dear FCC: please tell Congress to mandate FM chips in mobiles.” But phrases like “in other countries the FM chip is automatically activated” broadly suggest something along those lines (unless someone thinks the “automatic” activation elsewhere happens via biology).
The last time this question came up big time, it was back in 2010. Broadcasters suggested that the best way to resolve the logjam over requiring radio stations to pay performance royalties to musicians was to sweeten the deal by mandating FM chips in mobiles. That proposal went over like a lead Android with the mobile phone industry. Apparently it surfaced again in 2012, and the device makers hit the digital ceiling once more, as per Consumer Electronics Association chief Gary Shapiro’s op-ed in Forbes undiplomatically titled “Dinosaur Broadcasters Turn to Congress to Mandate Their Relevance.”
One would think that all that sturm und drang would erase this hope from broadcaster wish lists. Apparently not.