Broadcasters and the RIAA Want to Force FM Radio into Smartphones

Categories: Tech
In today's news from Planet Too Dumb To Exist, Ars Technica and others are reporting that the broadcast radio industry and the Recording Industry Association of America are working on proposed national legislation that would, among other things, require that all portable electronics like smartphones and PDAs contain FM radio chips.

If this legislation gets through Congress, your next iPhone or Android phone would be required to allow you to listen to FM radio. This, of course, makes about as much sense as requiring a computer to use a direct-to-paper typewriter mechanism for a keyboard. Which is to say, not at all. If device makers really think consumers want FM radio in their smartphones, let them throw it in as a feature and see how the things sell. (The Consumer Electronics Association, which represents portable electronics companies, is none too keen on the idea.)

According to Ars Technica, the idea of inserting radio chips into Internet-enabled devices is part of a proposed deal between the radio and recording industries in a beef about royalty payments. To summarize briefly: Broadcast radio doesn't pay as much in artist royalties as the recording industry (and the Internet radio industry) think it should. In a proposed deal between the RIAA and the National Association of Broadcasters, the broadcasters would make an annual payment of roughly $100 million to the RIAA instead of being forced to pay higher royalties. In return, both groups would lobby Congress to require device makers to put FM chips in everything portable, giving broadcasters a larger market.

Broadcasters want this, because there's already a piece of legislation called  the Performance Rights Act moving through Congress that would require terrestrial radio to pay the same royalties to artists as Internet radio -- and it says nothing about requiring FM chips.

So apart from blatantly supporting a dying industry, we're struggling to think why anyone would think this FM chip proposal is a good idea. And that's the funny part. A spokesman for an industry group of which the RIAA is a member said that the forced inclusion of FM chips in portable devices would give "consumers access to more music choices."

Yes, you read that right. After decades of constricting what gets played over the air to the point that many music fans can't even stand to listen to broadcast radio anymore, we're now supposed to believe that the industry suddenly wants to give consumers "more music choices."

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