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CEA’s Shapiro Says Forget About an FM Chip Mandate

‘Why not put them in pillows?’

The whole drive by broadcasters to get Congress to mandate an FM chip in cell phones and other devices is misguided and won’t succeed. So says Consumer Electronics Association President/CEO Gary Shapiro, appearing at the Jacobs Media Summit in Baltimore this week.

Gary Shapiro, left, receives a whip from moderator Fred Jacobs. When the CEA leader recently called radio a “buggy whip” industry for supporting mandating FM chips in cell phones, Jacobs responded in a blog headlined “Buggy Whip, My Ass!” Photo by Leslie Stimson “Why not just radios? Why not put them in pillows?” he asked rhetorically.

He said the mandate request makes the industry look old, weak and ineffective, hence his statement when the FM chip story came out that radio is a “buggy whip industry.” He used that language again in a recent commentary in Radio World.

Congress is not interested in voting for a mandate, he said: “It’s not going to happen.”

He disputed broadcasters’ argument that consumers would need access to stations on their devices in an emergency, “because they have their phones.” NAB has said cell phone networks sometimes fail during emergencies and that’s one of the reasons an FM chip should be in cell phones.

He praised NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith as “a savvy senator” who brought up the FM chip card to get the performance rights issue killed in Congress. But, Shapiro continued, “It makes radio look like it needs a government handout.”

NAB executive VP Dennis Wharton said, “In the spirit of the holiday season, NAB declines comment.”

Fred Jacobs asked Shapiro to comment on how radio can innovate.

The consumer electronics chief said HD Radio “looks promising,” though he added he “beat his head against a wall for 10 years getting the U.S. radio industry to embrace RDS.”

Jacobs interjected that RDS “is a mess here” compared to Europe. “Even on my new Ford Sync every station does [displays] it differently and sometimes the text is chopped off.”

Regarding increasing competition for radio in the dash, Shapiro agreed with Jacobs that radio is still dominant there but warns that wireless capability is coming to cars, either built into the dash or as an aftermarket product. “There will be thousands of people trying to get audio content into [the] car,” which are “clearly competitors for stations.” Radio’s already lost some listening in the home, Shapiro continued.

Shapiro has written a book, “The Comeback,” in which he discusses his views on how government’s efforts in the last decade stifle innovation. The FM chip issue is in there, he promised. The book is set for release Jan. 6, just in time for the CES show.

He did not answer a question about whether he has aspirations for elected office.