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Smith Emphasizes Safety Aspect of Radio in Cell Phones

NAB head calls radio ‘the ultimate survivor’

The importance of getting radio capability into mobile devices dominated the remarks by NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith in his opening at the Radio Show convention in Washington this week.

“Radio is strong and thriving in the digital age,” Smith told broadcasters. He called our medium “the ultimate survivor,” one that has prevailed and endured despite intense competition for consumers’ attention; he likened radio to the coyote: “clever, inventive and adaptive.”

He used his speech to again push for radio on cell phones. “In Latin America and Asia, nearly half of all users list radio as one of their top three choices in choosing a mobile phone, making it even more popular than mobile Internet access or even texting,” he said.

“Radio could reach 257 million American cell phone subscribers if included in all phones; that’s an incredible reach.”

The association’s emphasis on the safety and alerting aspects was on full display in his text: “While phones and the Internet can be unreliable during disasters, radio stations stay on the air, fulfilling the role of lifeline providers and first informers.”

Smith sought to dispel what he called myths about radio in cell phones: That there is no consumer demand; that radio capability would hurt battery life; that adding radio is expensive for manufacturers; that the chip would be too big and heavy.

“Luckily for cell phone users, a radio chip is smaller than the head of a nail and weighs less than a tic tac.” Further: “I’m told that HD Radio technology in a cell phone will be practical within about a year, creating additional services and revenue streams that become possible with a digital platform.”

Smith noted the recent ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001. “In those nine years, the cell phone industry has not implemented a way to instantly and reliably inform their millions of users in times of emergency. Radio provides the most practical, efficient and cost-effective way to keep Americans safe and informed.”

At the same opening event, co-host Jeff Haley, president and CEO of the RAB, expressed the opinion that radio has its “confidence back. … “For too long we have suffered from the inequity of time spent with radio by our listeners at 29% of their media time compared to investment by advertisers at 10% of their budgets. The great rebound from this recession has also been a reset on advertiser spending — we are up 6% — all media up 3%.”