04:39 PM

Americans Oppose Mandatory FM Radios In Cell Phones

A Consumer Electronics Association survey also found that 75% of U.S. adults believe manufacturers, not government agencies, should design consumer electronics products.

Pressed by broadcasters and record labels seeking to mandate FM radios in future cell phones, the Consumer Electronics Association asked Americans what they thought of the proposal. Seventy percent oppose the mandate, the CEA found, according to the results of a survey released Tuesday.

The CEA survey of 1,257 U.S. adults also found that 75% of the respondents agreed that designs of consumer electronics products should be carried out by manufacturers and not by government agencies. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has been lobbying Congress to mandate FM radio chips in new mobile phones.

"With broadcasters asking Congress to force consumers to buy mobile phones with FM radios built in, we thought it was time to ask consumers what they want," said Gary Shapiro, CEA president and CEO, in a statement.

"This study," he continued, "proves there is little consumer demand for radio-capable cell phones… For those few consumers who want a radio in their mobile phones, manufacturers offer several dozen such devices that are already on the market."

An even wider percentage of respondents -- 80% -- said they do not support a government mandate that would require manufacturers to install FM tuners in mobile phones.

In a battle of surveys, the NAB countered the CEA with the results of a survey of its own taken earlier this month showing that a majority of U.S. cell phone users want the ability to listen to their favorite local radio stations via radio receivers on their mobile phones.

Conducted by Harris Interactive, the survey of 2,587 adults found that 76% of the respondents said they would consider paying a one-time fee of 30 cents to be able to access local radio stations on their cell phones.

"Unfortunately, most U.S. mobile phone users have been denied over-the-air access to their favorite free and local stations," said NAB executive vice president of communications Dennis Wharton in a statement.

Wharton also suggested wireless carriers and manufacturers may have an ulterior motive for opposing the mandatory inclusion of FM radios in cell phones -- that cell phone users would be spending time listening to free FM music would be taking away from fee-based services charged by carriers.

As background, the NAB worked out a compromise with the Recording Industry Association of America to lobby Congress to change the laws that govern the music and radio industries in the way music is played on cell phones.

Under the NAB proposal, fees for non-profit and small commercial stations would be $100 or 1% of revenue. Stations with more than $1.25 million in revenue would pay 1% of their revenue. Stations playing incidental music like news, talk and sports-oriented stations would not be required to pay anything and neither would religious service stations.

The NAB also has argued that FM radio on cell phones would have public safety overtones and provide an important service in times of disasters requiring large populations to be alerted quickly.


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