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Broadcasters Hopeful About FM Chip Talks

Smulyan says, ‘This is the start of a process’

The full court press is on in Washington for FM chips in cellphones.

Broadcast participants are hopeful about a meeting on the Hill this week about enabling FM chips in cellphones and other mobile devices.

“This is the start of a process,” Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan told Radio World.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., called for the private meeting with members of the broadcast, cable and wireless industries. He chairs the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications. NAB’s Gordon Smith, Florida Association of Broadcasters’ Pat Roberts, Clear Channel’s Jeff Littlejohn, Cris Guttman-McCabe of CTIA — The Wireless Association and congressional staffers attended as well, along with a representative of the cable industry.

AT&T and Verizon were invited but didn’t come, however they are members of CTIA.

Smulyan and an NAB spokesman made clear the discussions don’t center on a mandated FM chip; rather they believe this will shake out as a negotiated settlement among industry parties.

Smulyan, iBiquity Digital and NAB have pressed the carriers for awhile on the issue. The carriers have repeatedly said consumers aren’t interested in the feature.

“We are asking cell carriers to voluntarily add or activate radio chips in part because of radio’s demonstrated role as a lifeline service in times of emergency,” said an NAB spokesman.

However now broadcasters believe they have more to offer the carriers with the announcement at the NAB show about the smaller, more power-efficient HD Radio chips and the ability to close the so-called “backchannel.”

“I think if the carriers realize they can offload some of the spectrum use onto us, that’s valuable to them,” Smulyan said.

The NAB and Smulyan confirmed this issue is the number one radio priority for the association right now.

More discussions and possible congressional hearings are expected. Bilirakis plans more meetings on the topic. Smulyan said the broadcasters have been approached by both the House and Senate commerce committees, as well as the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee.