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Should FM Chips on Cellphones Be Mandated?

Group executives once again discuss concept

Emmis Communications Chair/President/CEO Jeff Smulyan believes the company is close to getting support from more carriers for the concept of activating FM chips in cellphones.

“We think we’re getting closer,” to that, Smulyan told attendees at the Radio Show during a discussion with radio group leaders. “We think we’re close to a tipping point.”

Some 25 models now come preloaded with the NextRadio app, that includes some models that work for HTC and Nokia customers too. AT&T and Verizon, “didn’t turn it off,” meaning disable the FM chip, according to Smulyan.

Noting that automakers are asking about the NextRadio app, the Emmis executive said “Our challenge is to drive home the message to our listeners.”

Dean Goodman, president and founder of Digity, called for an FM chip mandate, noting the emergency alerting capabilities of the chip. “How many times does there need to be a disaster to prove what this industry does?”

Smulyan noted the industry earlier decided to back-off of requesting a federal mandate, however he acknowledged that some members of Congress are asking why not all smartphone models include an FM chip.

When asked about the possibility of reviving a call for a mandate, NAB Spokesman Dennis Wharton told Radio World: “From a public safety perspective and because radio is a lifeline in times of crisis, we believe cell carriers should voluntarily activate FM chips already in the phones.”

Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey said of the NextRadio app, “If we can have FM on every cellphone we will have more consumption of our medium.” A 30- or 60-second ad “is just as valuable on a cellphone if I listen to it in my car.”