Jeff Smulyan thrilled by Blackberry FM move


For many years Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan has been pushing for US wireless phone companies to make FM receivers a part of every phone. As you’d expect, he’s pretty happy about the decision by Research in Motion to let owners of recent models of its Blackberry smartphones activate the FM chips which are already in the phones.

“I am very, very pleased,” Smulyan told RBR-TVBR. But he doesn’t expect this to be the only such announcement. He said the wireless companies are finally coming around to understanding the advantages of activating FM chips, which are already in many smartphone models. “We’re starting to have more serious discussions,” he said.

RBR-TVBR has reported over several years about the effort by Smulyan and other broadcasters to get an FM radio receiver into every cell phone. Just a few months ago we ran a detailed argument from the Emmis CEO, making the case for FM in cell phones.

While lots of cell phone users use apps to stream broadcast (including Emmis stations) and/or online-only radio stations, Smulyan says the problem there for both consumers and the wireless companies is that delivering the data from streaming is “incredibly expensive.” As wireless companies deal with those bandwidth costs and move toward metering as a solution, Smulyan points to terrestrial radio as being “very efficient.”

Getting FM chips into cell phones (and activated) was part of a potential deal offered by the NAB to the record industry in 2010 for legislation which would have given the record labels a long-sought performance royalty from radio stations. The idea of tying FM in cell phones to the royalty issue was opposed by the wireless industry and the Consumer Electronics Association. However, the potential deal was derailed for other reasons, so that battle was never fought on Capitol Hill.

View related RBR-TVBR business reports:
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Note: Coming soon from RBR/TVBR – Look for a focused/key Consumer Retail Report: Internet Radio, iHeart vs Pandora. One fact in RBR-TVBR consumer retail research findings – Pandora is not going to go away.

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