Radio On Your Cellphone

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 - 4:24pm

A heated battle is being waged over the push to put FM receivers in all cellphones.

There's a battle brewing over your cell phone.

FM radio is not available on most of them, but broadcasters want the government to require it.

"It's a shame it's come to this, but the marketplace has been blocked," says Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan.

Cell phones in most other countries do have FM radio, but the U.S. wireless industry is against a mandate forcing its inclusion here.

"We believe it's an increased cost to consumers for a functionality consumers may not ever actually use," says the Rural Cellular Association's Steve Berry.

Broadcasters say radio's audience is growing, and they dispute the cost issue.

"This isn't going to be a cost item, because in most of the rest of the world, these phones
are shipped with the chip in them," Smulyan points out.

Currently only a few U.S. cell phones offer FM radio, and broadcasters say radio's merit goes
beyond music to news and information.

The wireless industry is working on its own Emergency Alert system, but broadcasters
argue it falls short.

"In a true emergency, because we have backup generators, we're really the only people
who can inform the American public," Smulyan says.

The wireless and broadcast industries both point to the bottom line as the true motivator for the other side.

There's no official legislation in front of Congress on the matter yet, but it's expected
To get attention this fall.

In addition to the monetary cost, the wireless industry contends adding FM radio
would present an opportunity cost by taking up room for potential new phone technologies.

Broadcasters says the country's largest cellular carriers have been able to exert too much
power to block FM radio's inclusion on cell phones.
 

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