NAB And CTIA Battle Over FM In Cell Phones In Two Letters
July 13, 2012 at 6:53 AM (PT)
The ongoing disagreement over the inclusion of an FM chip in cell phones generated two letters yesterday. One from NAB EVP/General Counsel JANE E. MAGO, and the other from CTIA -- THE WIRELESS ASSOCIATION VP/Regulatory Affairs CHRISTOPHER GUTTMAN-MCCABE.
MAGO pointed out that in testimony before Congress, GUTTMAN-MCCABE quoted what THE NAB felt was incorrect data, specifically that there are "at least 59 devices today that have an FM chip included." She also noted, "Research by NAB's Technology department indicates 12 of the 26 mobile devices in the BEST BUY Guide you referenced are not equipped to receive free, over -the-air radio."
GUTTMAN-MCCABE countered, "What seems to be lost on NAB, yet is evident to everyone else, is that consumers have numerous opportunities to purchase wireless devices with FM radio capabilities."
On behalf of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BROADCASTERS (NAB), I am writing to suggest that we work together to correct the record of the JUNE 6th, 2012, hearing entitled, "The Future of Audio," before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
NAB has discovered that certain information provided by you to the committee concerning the number of broadcast radio-enabled mobile phone devices was erroneous. Specifically, you repeatedly referred to the JUNE 2012 Buyer’s Guide from BEST BUY -- even holding it up for members of Congress to review -- and stated that the BEST BUY Guide included 26 broadcast radio-enabled mobile devices. You also stated on several occasions that there are 'at least 59 devices today that have an FM chip included.' Research by NAB’s Technology department indicates 12 of the 26 mobile devices in the BEST BUY Guide you referenced are not equipped to receive free, over-the-air radio. This includes all of the SAMSUNG devices, as well as all the devices offered by VIRGIN MOBILE, CRICKET and METROPCS. Presumably, all 26 devices were included in your total figure of 59 radio-enabled devices, making that number inaccurate as well.
We believe that it is important to inform the subcommittee that this information concerning the availability of radio-enabled mobile phones was inaccurate. It’s important that members of Congress, including Representative ANNA ESHOO (CA-14) -- who specifically relied on CTIA's data to conclude that market forces have met consumer demand for radio-enabled devices -- are provided accurate information to reach well-founded decisions.
During the hearing, JEFF SMULYAN of EMMIS COMMUNICATIONS described the difficulty that consumers encounter trying to identify the few mobile devices that include activated radio chips. He also noted the extreme difficulty -- if not the impossibility -- of finding a mobile phone's radio feature listed on wireless carriers' websites or locating a salesperson or customer service representative who knows which phones are radio-enabled. That you were also apparently mistaken on this information further demonstrates how difficult it is to determine which products have broadcast radio capability.
Despite these challenges, NAB is encouraged by modest progress made to provide consumers with more options for radio-enabled mobile devices. Recent research indicates that a significant percentage of consumers view radio as an attractive feature, and would choose to purchase a radio-enabled device if they were more aware of this option. NAB and radio broadcasters want to work with the wireless industry to better inform the public about the benefits of radio-enabled mobile devices. This effort should involve providing consumers with an accurate account of which devices include this capability. We believe that a coordinated effort will benefit consumers as well as both the wireless and radio industries.
NAB looks forward to further exploring this matter with CTIA.
JANE E. MAGO
Executive Vice President & General Counsel
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BROADCASTERS
CTIA -- THE WIRELESS ASSOCIATION's CHRISTOPHER GUTTMAN-MCCABE responded:
What seems to be lost on NAB, yet is evident to everyone else, is that consumers have numerous opportunities to purchase wireless devices with FM radio capabilities.
While we are not in the business of defending the BEST BUY catalog, NAB's letter concedes that it does highlight multiple FM-capable phones, and the catalog is only one source of information on the availability and capabilities of wireless handsets.
While there is scant evidence that consumers in the U.S. desire FM service on their mobile device, we believe that, to the extent consumers want FM capability in their phones, the wireless industry will deliver. Whether it's through the introduction of technologies like BLUETOOTH, GPS, near field communications, cameras, high resolution video or the availability of applications, including extremely popular music services, like TUNEIN, PANDORA, SPOTIFY and SLACKER, wireless devices continue to evolve and deliver what consumers want, when they want it and where they want it."
Vice President, Regulatory Affairs
CTIA -- THE WIRELESS ASSOCIATION
In addition to their letter, THE NAB also released a one-pager explaining the difference between having a radio tuner built into your mobile phone and streaming through an app. THE NAB explained, "The one-pager makes note that, among other benefits, a built-in radio tuner is more reliable, can provide local emergency information and does not use data that eats into a pay-by-the-bit cellphone plan."