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NAB and RIAA - Thanks for Creating Some Exciting News in the Normally Quiet August

Telecom and techie bloggers would normally have little to do during August when both FCC and Congress basically go on vacation. But fortunately NAB and RIAA have taken this normally dull news period and made it exciting with their proposal to require all cell phones -- and possibly other types of personal electronics -- to include what you have always been yearning for: an FM receiver! We bloggers are very grateful to NAB and RIAA for their help at this normally quiet period.

The picture at top is from the CBS News website where a CNET commentator really cuts into the proposal predicting that once Steve Jobs hears about it, he will just kill it since he is Master of the Universe. (Does CBS risk being kicked out of NAB for hosting such heresy?)

In memory of the late Fairness Doctrine, here as a link to the Radio Business Report/Television Business Report “Voice of the Broadcasting Industry” website which has a more rational discussion of the topic than NAB who declared the wireless industry’s letter to Congress to be anti-radio. (Fortunately, this blog has never been labeled with that dread description.)

However, RBR comes up with a surprising piece of legal research: “Remember also, the Communications Act of 1934 enables the FCC without Congressional intervention to set all of the technical standards for radio receivers, let alone two-way radio receivers -- a.k.a. cell phones.” Even NAB’s well respected legal staff was not able to come to this conclusion simply because there is no such provision in current legislation! (We will gladly print any input arguing otherwise)

But, the other side makes much more interesting reading:

Digital Tends: Will Uncle Sam Shove an FM Radio in Your Cell Phone
AppleInsider: NAB, RIAA seek to push FM radio into iPods and iPhones
Public Knowledge: Despite the RIAA/NAB Unholy Alliance to Force FM Radios Into All Cell Phones, Performance Royalties Are Still a Good Idea
ExtraTorrent: RIAA Demands Cell Phone Makers to Install FM Tuner
Daily Tech: RIAA and Broadcasters Look to Tell U.S. Government to Mandate Radios in Cell Phones

”Whether it's suing dead people or simply suing living ones for millions of dollars for illegally downloading a few tracks, media watchdog the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) seems to gravitate towards controversy like a moth to a flame. The divisive organization is back at it again, this time demanding that the U.S. government impose a drastic mandate on cell phone production.”


Will The NAB Agree To A Performance Rights Tax In Exchange For Having RIAA Support Mandatory FM Radio In Mobile Phones?

(from the rearranging-deck-chairs dept)
We've discussed, for quite some time now, the ridiculousness of a performance rights tax on radio. This is the attempt, by the record labels, to get radio stations to pay performers for advertising and promoting their music. This is clearly not needed, because in the real world, without this, record labels already know that radio play is valuable: it's why they keep running payola scams. For them to try to then legally mandate that money should flow in the opposite direction is downright ridiculous. In what world does the government make someone pay to promote someone else?

After years and years fighting this, we should have known that the NAB would come up with some ridiculous idea in the end. The NAB, which represents broadcasters, is almost always on the wrong side of policy debates (that's what happens when your job is to protect a dying industry), but on this one issue we agreed... until now. Rumors are circulating that the NAB is willing to cave on performance rights, if the RIAA, in exchange, supports a totally wasteful plan to require FM radio receivers be placed in mobile phones, MP3 players and other digital devices. Now, everyone involved says no deal is done yet, but there are multiple indications that this is exactly where the conversation is heading.

So congratulations to NAB for getting this publicity in August that you really could not even buy! We hope your TV members appreciate how this action shows positively on the whole broadcast industry and its dedication to public service. MSTV must be happy that the “good cop/bad cop” dichotomy between the two organizations is diminishing with NAB’s bold legislative proposal for its radio members.

But in the interest of breaking this log jam, here is a bold new proposal from your blogger: Anti immigrant fever is now very popular and any real control of the “undocumented” will require a national ID system, mandatory carrying of such an ID, and regular spot checks - without ethnic profiling, of course. Why not just combine an FM radio mandate with the a new national ID card!

The RadioMuseum website shows a 1986 Casio FM receiver that is as large of two credit cards stacked on top of each other. Certainly with the technical progress of the past 14 years this can be reduced to maybe 1.5 credit cards (or less) and could also have a high tech national ID card incorporated. Then everyone will be required to carry an FM receiver subject to arrest by Sheriff Arpaio for not carrying it. Wouldn’t that be better than just the proposed NAB/RIAA cell phone mandate? You would be arrested for not carrying an FM receiver! Law enforcement could check for both FM radios and undocumented aliens at the same time. That would be real government efficiency addressing 2 key goals at the same time.

UPDATE: NAB Fights Back!
ZeroPaid.com: Radio Pres: Forced Cell Phone FM Tuner is “Pro-Consumer”

National Association of Broadcasters executive vice president Dennis Wharton blasts critics for using usual “Washington-style tactics” that are “long on exaggeration, rhetoric and factual inaccuracies,” and cites evidence of a growing radio audience as proof that “cell phone subscribers deserve access to radio’s free service.” Says opposition is a “simple case of anti-competitive behavior.” ...

I think he’s trying to paint critics with the Washington tag in order to make them seem outside the mainstream, but I think it’s safe to say that most critics are average folks leery about govt mandating design requirements instead of the likes of tech companies like Apple or Motorola. If consumers really wanted an FM tuner they’d seek out those handsets that have them.

But the new winner of the most humorous treatment of this mess is ZatzNotFunny.com for some clever artwork:

Bang out Morse code distress messages from your Sprint EVO MC

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