Will FM Radio be Mandated for Cell Phones?

Music labels and broadcast stations have long argued about the royalties radio stations pay to the music labels for playing their songs on the air. Now they’ve reached an agreement, and one of the key terms is a proposed mandate to force cell phone manufacturers to embed an FM radio in every cell phone.

Writing in the Washington Examiner, David Freddoso said:

Anyway, the big broadcasters get what they want. The artists get what they want. The only guy not represented at this table seems to be the guy who’s going to have to pay more in the future for a heavier, bulkier cell phone.

Naturally, the cell phone manufacturers aren’t happy with the idea of third parties mandating what extra capabilities they put into their phones. The National Association of Broadcasters pushed back with a long argument why the idea was sound public policy.

One valid point made by the NAB is that cellular providers have been dragging their feet with respect to implementing emergency notification services. But the broadcast industry’s record on that score is not without blemishes. In an era of automated stations and centralized programming, broadcast stations do not always respond well to local emergencies. A few months ago, ÆtherCzar recounted the experience of residents in Minot, ND in 2002. A train derailment that released clouds of toxic anhydrous ammonia gas. Due to various failures in the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and the fact that the phone lines were jammed by residents desperate for information, local stations had no clue what was going on and were unable to keep the public informed.

Perhaps sensing blood in the water, now there is lobbying to require cell phones to include TV tuners also. Matthew Lassar writing at Ars Technica has a great piece on why this is a bad idea citing the 1960’s era UHF tuner mandate.

Additional details in: Information Week, Ars Technica.

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