Having an FM chip in every single smartphone sold in America should not be an option, it should be a service provided by every telecom company out there as a matter of public interest. So says Mike Smythe, VP/GM of Raycom’s CBS KFVS-TV 12 out of Cape Girardeau MO. Smythe called on smartphone providers to do the right thing and turn on the chips that are already in most models, at no charge to consumers, no less.
KFVS serves the Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg-Mt. Vernon DMA, and Smythe used his own chunk of spectrum to go to bat for the safety and well-being of his own viewers in the event of a natural or manmade disaster. In an editorial, he said that an activated FM radio chip should be a free service provided in every single smartphone out there as a simple matter of public safety.
Smythe had to go no farther back in history than the recent devastating tornadoes in Joplin and elsewhere. Cell towers were downed, rendering mobile phones useless. But radio stations were still up and running, providing critical information to the devastated area. He said there is absolutely no question that every person in that area with a mobile device would have loved to have access to radio during that excruciatingly difficult time.
Most of the rest of the world has FM available on their mobile device, noted Smythe, and he said 50% call broadcast radio one of the top three features on their phone.
In short, putting an FM chip in FM chip in the phones should not be an option, it should be an obligation.
In his piece, Smythe quoted Emmis honcho and FM chip proponent Jeff Smulyan , who said, “There is no reason for cell providers not to turn on the FM signal chip as a public service. It is the right thing to do for our safety.”
Smythe added, “This should be in every smartphone at no charge by the provider.” He concluded, “Tell your cell phone provider that the FM chip is not an option, the chip is for your safety, and with your help we can get this done.”
RBR-TVBR observation: We had a man-made disaster in our market a few years back – it involved an attack on the Pentagon, and for many hours nobody knew if there were going to be further attacks on Washington DC. It didn’t take knocking down cell phone towers to render them useless – they simply could not handle the sudden surge in use. No amount of TV station spectrum is going to solve that problem. But the presence of a smartphone FM chip would have kept thousands upon thousands of pedestrians and mass transit users informed with critical and possibly life and death information.
We are proud of the fact that broadcasters are the unchallenged leaders when it comes to serving the public interest, particularly in times of emergency. And we wonder why telcos wouldn’t want to come forward and do their part in serving the public interest. And we further wonder why Washington – which has first-hand experience with this – doesn’t hold them to the same public interest standards that broadcasters serve.