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NAB Uses Twitter to Redact History on the FM Radio in Cell Phone Mandate Issue

While researching the previous post here on NAB’s new interest in cognitive radio, your blogger discovered the above tweets from NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton on his airwharton Twitter channel. Readers may recall that a widely reported NAB push on Congress for legislation mandating FM receivers in ALL cell phone was a recurring topic here in August - October 2010. We thought NAB had just given up on the issue. No!

The very same week of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre when China is busy burying unpleasant facts, NAB was doing the same thing! In China the “myth” of the massacre is from “foreign devils” trying to stop China’s growth and in NAB’s case “That’s myth from wireless cos” (sic).

Was the reported push for legislation really a “myth from wireless cos”? First we have below a 2010 news item from the CBS website. Since CBS is an NAB member we assume that they are not a tool of the cellular industry. Note especially the comment at 1:05 - 1:55 of the video.

While I can’t find a public quote from Mr. Wharton supporting the legislation that would have required FM receivers in cell phones, he seemed awfully upset in August 2010 about a cellular industry letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees opposing the then pending legislation, saying “it would be unfortunate if telco gatekeepers blocked access to public safety information offered by free and local radio."

In an August 6, 2010 NAB release that “can be attributed to NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton”, it states:

At the direction of House and Senate leaders in late 2009, NAB met with MusicFirst - representing artists, labels and unions. To date discussions have yielded the following potential terms. These terms have NOT BEEN AGREED TO, but are under discussion by the industry.

They include:

-Tiered rate of 1% or less for all net revenue (roughly $100 million for the industry) which is permanent and can not be adjusted without changing statute or by mutual agreement
-PERMANENT removal of CRB jurisdiction for terrestrial and streaming
-Streaming rate reduction from current rates
-Inclusion of radio chips on all mobile phones
-AFTRA issues resolved (agency commercial replacement on webcasts)

Note the next to the last item, “Inclusion of radio chips on all mobile phones”. Thus NAB stated in 2010 that it was discussing an FM radio mandate as part of a package of items with the music industry group MusicFirst to settle a music copyright dispute between them. So while in some strict sense NAB never formally agreed to the specific package of terms that included the FM mandate, the phrase in Mr. Wharton’s June 6 tweet about a “cellphone mandate that no one is pushing” seems less than candid.

It is clear that NAB was pushing this mandate in August 2010, it just never agreed on final package with the music industry. At the time NAB publicly disagreed with the cellular industry on the need for a mandate - they never denied their support for it until this current series of tweets.

NAB was perfectly happy to put this mandate on the cellular industry and consumers who have voted “with their feet” not to buy the few models of cell phones that include FM receivers. Perhaps if the broadcasters put some compelling content on their stations they might get listeners without mandates. NAB also has pressed FCC for HD Radio mandates to help prop up that technology that consumers are rejecting.

NAB, I’m sure you are good Republicans who object to the “Obamacare” insurance mandate. Why are you pushing all these other mandates and then denying it?

(For the record, your blogger is an avid NPR listener and a paid member of WAMU-FM.)


CTIA has now jumped in with this YouTube video dumping on NAB on this issue. (Note that CTIA says on 2 out of 20 people interviewed said they used their cell/smart phone to listen to FM. However, their is no indication of how many had that option since few cell phones at present have the capability. It really was an unfair question, although I think a fairer question would have got the same answer.)

I would love to moderate a public discussion between Mr. Wharton and Mr. Walls on this issue!

CTIA has now created a Twitter hashtag #nofmchipmandate . So if you need constant updating on how silly two powerful trade associations with million dollar CEOs can behave, just enter this into your favorite hashtags list and watch the silliness in real time!
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