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Radio Ink Writers

Why You Should Care About The FM Chip


Despite the big push from the NAB and Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan (pictured) it's hard to determine if the FM chip is getting any traction with the wireless industry or members of Congress. Everything we hear from the Wireless industry indicates there is no interest in helping broadcasters get into mobile devices. And even though broadcasters indicate they're not interested in a mandate, they continue to meet with lawmakers to push the chip citing community safety concerns.

Make no mistake, the other reason, and perhaps the real reason, broadcasters are pushing the chip is because they see mobile phones have become an extension of the human body. And, if radio has a permanent spot on that body part, it's good for business. The wireless industry sees that as the main reason radio is pushing the chip, not the safety issue, and they are not rolling over. Data charges bring in the money. A chip does not. Well, maybe not.

Mobile phone real estate is like Boardwalk on a monopoly board. Why should radio be given that property for free? Fact is, it may not be free. Something you may not know, and should research with the NAB, is the mention of shared revenue with the carriers.

Part of the discussion about getting the chip into all phones is paying for that privilege. You may want to know how this affects you if radio does become a permanent part of all mobile phones. Jeff Smulyan says it could include giving the carriers a share of any new revenue that is generated on the back end of the cell phone. In other words if a coupon comes up from one of the ads, the carriers would get a percentage of any consumer redemption. He admits this is only one idea in the early stages of the discussions with carriers.

Smulyan says he's been having discussions with the wireless carriers but it's not easy to determine whether they will ever agree to activate the FM chips. "It's hard to know. We're in discussions with the carriers but we're not sure they're serious." Not to mention, there has never really been any clamor for the chips from consumers so why should carriers just give broadcasters a freebie. Smulyan says the carrier's "taunt us, saying where are our listeners. Why don't your listeners respond?" Industry leaders have been trying to find ways to get stations to spread the word to listeners, hoping listeners would get on the bandwagon with them and create a clamor for radio. It seems they're more interested in talking to SIRI on their phones than they are listening to the radio from a chip.