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NAB Responds to Mark Ramsey's "Glass Half Empty"

Last week Mark Ramsey's distributed survey results that he says detailed how "nearly 20% of the audience today says FM radio is built-in to their mobile phones and while use of this feature is decent, it's not overwhelming enough to suggest a strong demand." The NAB's Dennis Wharton (pictured) didn't take kindly to the survey, calling it "poorly designed to fit Ramsey's pre-conceived negative opinion." Here is Wharton's complete op-ed.

"While Mark Ramsey argues there is little consumer demand for incorporating radio receivers on cell phones, he bases his glass-half-empty conclusions on a poorly designed survey to fit his own pre-conceived negative opinion. Ramsey’s survey trumpets the claim that 57% of those people with FM chips on their cell phone almost never used them. Even if the survey was given credibility, that still suggests 43% of folks with radio-enabled cellphones actually enjoy that feature.

His conclusions about consumers’ satisfaction are hard to take seriously, however, as he bases his claims on 164 responses taken from an already small sample of 1,346 people surveyed. No reputable polling firm would consider this a legitimate cross-sampling of the U.S. population. When a true examination of people’s attitudes towards radio-capable cellphones is conducted, the facts are simple: the more that Americans hear about the benefits of listening to radio on mobile devices, the more they want the service.

Just last year, for example, NAB commissioned a Harris poll of 2,587 people and found that only 8% of Americans had radio capability on cellphones. A whopping 73% of poll respondents, however, said it was important to have a radio built into their cell phone. Every week, more than 260 million Americans tune in to free and local radio, and that number is growing. With this many fans of broadcast radio, they should at least be given the option of listening to local news, weather, sports and entertainment on their cell phone and have a chance to stay connected to their community.

After all, that option is available for cell phone owners around the world, and it is wildly popular. In Europe, hundreds of mobile device models are manufactured with an FM chip, and in Latin America and Asia, 45% of cell phone owners list radio as one of their top three choices in choosing a mobile phone. Worldwide, global penetration of radio-enabled cell phones stands at 45% and is expected to grow.

So why are U.S. wireless carriers reluctant to embrace adoption of a free and local radio chip? Perhaps it’s based mostly on greed, because they want consumers to use data-consuming music-listening apps, especially now that cell phone providers have all adopted pay-by-the-bit billing plans. Why offer consumers the option of a free over-the-air radio service when you can charge them a fee?

We believe it is in wireless carriers’ self-interest to voluntarily equip mobile devices with radio receivers. If wireless carriers were serious about solving their alleged capacity crunch, wouldn’t it make sense for them to build radio receivers into mobile devices and educate consumers about this spectrally efficient resource?

Beyond the numbers, though, the argument for putting radio receivers in cell phones boils down to a moral imperative. Should people be able to receive continuous, lifesaving information during an emergency on a device most people always carry with them? That answer should be obvious.

(8/3/2011 11:30:26 AM)
Wow, I am stunned a NAB-commissioned study produced poll results favorable to NAB. Stop the madness. Tech mandates are bad public policy. The public safety argument is a red herring.

(8/1/2011 5:18:49 PM)
I hae a limited amount of battery on my cell phone. I'm not concerned about having FM on my phone. OH i don't even have app from the local broadcast TV service to get the latest breaking news. I have FM in my house, in my car and at my desk if i need it. AND if i need it when the power goes out i have a crank up radio. You make you own decisions based on your priorities. FM on the phone, no thanks.

- John
(8/1/2011 2:41:53 PM)
I recently got a phone with a FM tuner. It is nice to have, but largely impractical to use since I have to plug in a set of headphones to use it (it uses the headphone cable as the antenna). While I understand some of the reasoning behind this, in a day and age of bluetooth headsets, how many people walk around with wired headsets connected to their phone. In an emergency or power outage situation, I would find a set of headphones if needed, but it just isn't practical for me in everyday use.

- Evo3d
(8/1/2011 1:13:55 PM)
In case anyone is interested in my reply to this treatise, you can find it here:

- Mark Ramsey
(8/1/2011 12:08:16 PM)
Exactly right! I have no idea why industry trades publish these "surveys" from Ramsey and the like as actual industry news. He's simply figured out how to get the trade magazines and websites to give him free advertising for his new media consultancy.

- Robbie Green

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