Six Tech Groups Fight FM-Chip Mandate

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Arlington, Va. - Six industry associations, including the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the cellular industry trade group, sent a letter to Congress opposing a proposal by the National Association of Broadcasters (


) to mandate the inclusion of FM radio tuners in mobile devices.

The proposal arose amid Congressional deliberations, driven by the music industry, to require terrestrial AM and FM broadcasters to start paying royalties to artists and music companies, not just to songwriters, as satellite and Internet radio stations do. The broadcast industry, which has long opposed paying the additional royalties, hopes its compromise will head off potentially higher rates that Congress might enact and encourage the music industry to sign on in return for potential access to more listeners. The NAB is also positioning the proposal as a public-safety measure.



Coalition, which is leading the lobbying effort to enact the new royalties, said the proposal has the "potential to be a significant breakthrough."

In their letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committees, the six groups urged Congress to "resist efforts to include an FM technology mandate for mobile devices in any legislation addressing an unrelated conflict between the broadcast and recording industries over royalties."

Calls for an FM chip mandate, the letter said, "are not about public safety but are instead about propping up a business which consumers are abandoning as they avail themselves of new, more consumer-friendly options." The letter called it "is simply wrong for two entrenched industries to resolve their differences by agreeing to burden a third industry -- which has no relationship to or other interest in the performance royalty dispute -- with a costly, ill-considered and unnecessary new mandate."

The other four groups joining




, which represents the cellular industry, are the Information Technology Industry Council, the Rural Cellular Association, TechAmerica and the Telecommunications Industry Association. The six groups represents device manufacturers, wireless carriers and chip makers.

In the letter , the groups contend that the FM chip mandate:

  • would raise the cost of producing wireless devices and force consumers to pay more for a feature they may not want or ever use. If consumers wanted FM radio in their cellphones, the feature would be available in a more than the handful of cellphones that currently offer them;
  • will require additional chip and antenna space that might "foreclose opportunities to include other functionality that may be more highly valued by consumers and harm competition among device makers by limiting opportunities for differentiation";
  • and isn't needed to improve public safety because, under the federal Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act, the wireless industry is already working with government agencies "to develop a mobile broadcast emergency alerting system compatible with present and future wireless air interfaces that will allow for the targeted real-time delivery of government-approved alerts."

WARN technology "will soon be a reality," the letter contended. An FM chip mandate was already rejected by Congress during its WARN Act deliberations, the letter writers noted.

The associations also contended that the existence of an FM chip in a mobile device "does not guarantee that a consumer would be tuned to a station broadcasting an announcement about an impending danger." In contrast, the WARN Act system "will provide immediate notification of government-approved alerts," the letter stated.

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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