Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) survey shows a majority of consumers are not interested in having FM tuners in their cell phones, contradicting an earlier survey conducted by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) that claimed a majority would use and “pay extra” for the feature.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is still trying to fight off attempts by the RIAA and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) to require that all portable electronic devices include an FM radio tuner, releasing the results of a survey that claims a majority of consumers oppose the idea.
I first mentioned the effort back in August, the RIAA agreeing to help the NAB lobby Congress to require that all portable electronic devices include an FM radio tuner. In exchange for the RIAA’s help, the NAB would help support amending the Performance Rights Act which would amend copyright law to “grant performers of sound recordings equal rights to compensation from terrestrial broadcaster.
Radio enjoys a longstanding exemption from having to pay performance fees under US copyright law. Unlike webcasters and satellite radio which have to pay royalties to songwriters, artists and record labels, radio has only had to pay royalties to songwriters. It has been exempted from the rest in the name of artist promotion. Removing the exemption would mean radio would pay upwards of a reported $100 million per year in royalties; so the RIAA gets cash and radio gets an expanded audience.
Criticism of the plan was immediate with Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro referring to it as “buggy-whipping” by the NAB and RIAA which have refused to “innovate” and adapt to the digital marketplace and have decided to try and “impose penalties on those that do.”
The NAB calls the proposal “pro-consumer” and says that “cell phone subscribers deserve access to radio’s free service.” It’s also tried to argue that FM tuners are an important feature from a “public safety perspective.”
It even trotted out a nationwide poll of some 2,587 people which found that 76% of cellphone owners “would consider paying a one-time fee of 30 cents to access local radio stations through a built-in radio chip.” It also claimed that 66% of adults would use the feature.
In order to get a better consumers think about the proposal the CEA decided to conduct a survey of its own. It found that the opposite was true – 70% would not listen to FM broadcasts on their cellphone.
An even broader majority of 80% said they firmly oppose a government mandate that would force manufacturers to include an FM tuner in mobile phones.
“With broadcasters asking Congress to force consumers to buy mobile phones with FM radios built in, we thought it was time to ask consumers what they want. This study proves there is little consumer demand for radio-capable cell phones and consumers don’t want the government telling them what features their phones should have,” said Gary Shapiro, CEA president and CEO. “For those few consumers who want a radio in their mobile phones, manufacturers offer several dozen such devices that are already on the market.”
CEA’s study also found 75% of adults agree that designs of consumer electronics products should be determined by manufacturers and not by the government.
“Americans continue to want consumer electronics (CE) products designed by market demand rather than government mandates. The CE market is the most innovative and growing sector in our economy. We understand that radio broadcasters are facing competition from new services and technologies, but rather than rely on government mandates, we encourage broadcasters to provide innovative services that Americans actually want to use,” concluded Shapiro. “CEA and its member companies encourage Congress to leave such unwanted and unnecessary mandates out of any performance royalty legislation.”
Let’s hope Congress listens.