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Smulyan Hopeful on FM Chip Issue

Tidbits gleaned from private powwow as wireless companies present united front

Emmis Communications Chairman/President/CEO Jeff Smulyan is hopeful after Friday’s closed meeting at the FCC about integrating FM chips into wireless phones and other mobile devices.

He told Radio World the broadcast and wireless industry representatives, as well as commission staff, had a “very robust and frank discussion.” The commission asked participants to keep the details private.

While NAB has been briefing members of Congress about the issue and says it’s not seeking a mandate, this meeting was significant because it was the first involving the FCC. Asked whether there may be more such meetings on FM chips, Smulyan said that’s up to the commission, however he hopes there will be more.

In a letter sent to all five FCC commissioners, Apple, HTC, Motorola, Nokia, PCD (Pantech), RIM and Samsung, in additional to CTIA, The Wireless Association, asked commissioners to “continue to follow a light regulatory touch” and decline pleas from NAB to have FM chips included “beyond the devices already available” in this country.

NAB Spokesman Dennis Wharton said that reaction is “disappointing, given the unreliability of cellphones in times of crisis that CTIA would resist embracing an idea that can save lives.” NAB cites studies that it says show four in five Americans want local radio activated in mobile devices. “CTIA members should put public safety above profits, do the right thing and voluntarily light up radio chips,” said Wharton.

CEA President/CEO Gary Shapiro continues to decry what he says are NAB’s efforts “to force cellphone manufacturers to include FM radio chips in all our phones.” The CEA executive suggested NAB “do what real businesses do” and negotiate a deal with a manufacturer to include a radio chip and then use the airwaves to build consumer demand.

In reaction, Wharton told Radio World, “We don’t seek guidance from Gary Shapiro.”