FM in cell phone battle goes mainstream


Until now you pretty much had to be a reader of RBR-TVBR or some other broadcast industry trade publication to know that a deal between NAB and RIAA/musicFirst on the Performance Rights Act might lead to Congress mandating FM radio receiver capability in cell phones. No more. The Associated Press picked up on the story in its print cycle for Thursday morning newspapers.

Not all AP member papers carried the story, of course, but a check at midday Thursday found around 350 newspaper and other AP-affiliated websites had posted the story and had it indexed by Google News. Also, USA Today media columnist David Lieberman had checked in with his own version of the story.

Both the AP and USA Today stories quoted Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro attacking the idea of “mandating inclusion of features consumers don’t want.”

The AP story did also include a defense of the emergency notification value of FM in cell phones by NAB Exec. VP Dennis Wharton and a comment from RIAA CEO Mitch Bainwol that the radio and record industries are “on the precipice of an historic breakthrough.”

Jot Carpenter, VP of Government Affairs for CTIA – The Wireless Association, also repeated his denunciation of the potential deal for the AP.

musicFirst spokesman Marty Machowsky went beyond his previous comment to RBR-TVBR calling for a PRA deal that “is fair to artists, musicians and rights holders – and fair to radio” and told the AP that putting FM in cell phones would “give consumers more ways to listen to and enjoy music.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The problem with negotiating an end to one war is that the resolution could start a new war with someone else. That’s certainly what’s happening here. Can NAB and RIAA/musicFirst get everything resolved and a law passed by Congress in not much more than four months?