CEA Opposes Proposal To Mandate FM in Portables

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Arlington, Va. - The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is opposing discussions by the broadcast and music industries to tie an agreement over radio station royalties to a mandate that all portable electronics incorporate an FM radio tuner.

"The backroom scheme of the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) and RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) to have Congress mandate broadcast radios in portable devices, including mobile phones, is the height of absurdity," said CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro.

"Forced inclusion of an additional antenna, processor and radio receiver will compromise features that consumers truly desire, such as long battery life and light weight," he contended. "Reducing product performance, mandating inclusion of features consumers don't want, and replacing product innovation by companies like Amazon, Apple, Motorola and HP-Palm with government design mandates are not in our national interest."

Calling the mandate "onerous and backward-looking," Shapiro 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."

The discussion arose as part of Congressional deliberations backed by the music industry to require terrestrial AM and FM broadcasters to start paying royalties to artists and music companies for the songs they broadcast. By law, radio broadcasters have had to pay royalties only to songwriters, but new broadcast media such as satellite radio and webcasters pay royalties to songwriters, artists and music companies.

As part of negotiations to reach an agreement over the royalty proposal, the NAB and RIAA have discussed limiting the additional amount of royalties to be paid while giving the music industry more potential access to more listeners through portable devices.

The NAB said no deal has been finalized but said the mandate would enhance public safety in emergencies. Dennis Wharton, NAB's EVP for communications, told TWICE that "from a public safety perspective, it is critically important to have broadcast radio's unparalleled lifeline service available instantaneously in times of emergency. For that reason, NAB would oppose any legislation related to royalties that did not include that feature."

A bill without the mandate has already been approved by committees in the House and Senate.

Select cellphones already come with included FM radio, as does the ZuneHD MP3/video player with embedded FM HD Radio.


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