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NABA Takes Higher Profile in FM Chip Push

Providing data on activation is “an important step for raising awareness of this technology"

Backers of active FM chips in smartphones are expanding their push beyond U.S. borders.

Reflecting that effort, the North American Broadcasters Association has begun publishing data about penetration of FM chips in smartphones for the North American market.

“Working with the National Association of Broadcasters and using data compiled by research and consulting firm ABI Research, this sales data shows the extent of FM chip penetration in the top-selling smartphones for Canada, Mexico and the U.S. for the fourth quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016,” according to a statement released jointly by NAB and NABA. NAB tech arm Pilot has been publishing U.S. data; this expands the effort.

NABA, based in Toronto, is an association of broadcasting organizations in Canada, United States and Mexico that describes itself as “your regional voice in the international media community” and has been taking a higher profile with radio-related matters lately. The U.S. NAB helped fund development of the NextRadio local listening app, which relies on active FM chips and expands on their capabilities. Both NAB and Emmis Corp., the parent of NextRadio, are associate members of NABA, and Paul Brenner of Emmis/NextRadio is vice chair of the NABA Radio Committee.

NAB and NABA said the new data show that “most of the top-selling smartphones in all three countries include an FM chip, which means that these devices can receive free, over-the-air FM radio signals, depending upon whether the FM chip is activated in the device.” But many of these are not activated, including the popular Apple iPhone — activation in which has been something of a Holy Grail for FM chip proponents.

“Broadcasters are working with smartphone device manufacturers and cellular carriers to increase the number of models that have the FM chip activated so that more consumers have access to FM radio on their smartphones,” NAB and NABA stated.

The announcement was from NABA Director-General Michael McEwen and NAB Executive Vice President and CTO Sam Matheny. McEwen was quoted: “NABA believes that providing statistical data on FM chip activation in smartphones for North America is an important step for raising awareness of this technology among radio broadcasters and consumers.”

The chart at right is from the latest release. More details are available here.