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.

The NAB tries to defend this by comparing FM radio — a dying technology — to federal mandates on digital television tuners. That, of course, was entirely different in so many ways. It involved attempts to move the country forward to a new technology, not mandating an obsolete one. It also was done for a very specific reason: to try to recapture tons of valuable spectrum that could be put to much more valuable and practical use. Mandating FM tuners is just a waste of time and money in a quixotic attempt by broadcasters to prop up FM radio. My mobile phone has an FM receiver today, and I’ve never even looked at it. Some manufacturers have chosen to put this technology into devices today — and that’s fine, if they choose to do so. But, mandating it as part of a backroom political deal? No thanks.

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Companies: nab, riaa

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

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Sean T Henry (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If it does go through I hope that they push in that mandate that ALL radios include a built in HD tuner. That was the biggest mistake that was made with the digital TV transition they wanted to implement it back in 1997 and delayed it over and over again. Durring that time they never mandated that the tv tuner built after X date must have a digital tuner built in. If they would have done that starting in 1998 very few tvs would have needed a converter box.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Is this a typo?

While he probably did mean receiver, my satellite radio has an FM transmitter. It’s not too hard to imagine a legitimate use for an FM transmitter in a cell phone.

So NAB agreed to buckle to the RIAA in the hopes that a joint venture to the FCC will lead to legislation requiring FM receivers in new cell phones. NAB just agreed to pay to promote RIAA music and there’s a vary good chance they will get nothing in return.

Michial Thompson (user link) says:

Re: Is this a typo?

He is refering to the FM Transmitter that allows MP3s on the phone to be played through the car stereo without a wire attachment..

Haven’t seen one of those phones on the market in years though, should we really trust someone who’s parents hand me downs are still 5 years old?

Come on little mikee should you be commenting on modern anything if your technologically stuck in the 90s?

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

I remember back when I had a cassette/FM radio Walkman that when the battery power was too weak to play the cassette I could always default over to an FM station for five or six hours more of music (and commercials). Now my cars have CD players, mp3 player inputs, and AM/FM radio. Never listen to the radio. If you add this to these devices they will be essentially ignored by the users as Mike does. Sorry NAB, you will have to get the government to mandate listening to your transmissions to make this work.

Perry K (profile) says:


So will every device manufacturer make a special US version with FM as mandated and keep the original for the rest of the world?

Will my iphone sans FM be confiscated at the airport as I enter the US because it doesn’t conform?

Maybe I can rent an FM tuner for the duration of my stay in the US?

This is one of the most ridiculous ideas I’ve seen in a while. It’s not going to fly.

frosty840 says:

Hardly a dying technology

Here in the UK, people are looking seriously at keeping FM going because our digital radio format is, frankly, rubbish.

Broadcast, as a media distribution method, is starting to become somewhat obsolete, but I wouldn’t say that FM is going that way any more than any other broadcast format.

Also, FM receivers are all very well, but every single phone FM receiver I have ever used has required headphones to be plugged in. I don’t even own a pair of headphones for my phone and thanks to it using an already-obsolete proprietary headphone connector, I never will. What utter nonsense.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

Will either the NAB or the RIAA pay for any of this or is this just a subsidy that everyone else will be forced to pay for.

Christopher Sadoun says:

Jesus Died for All
1. ‘Earthly Jerusalem Babel is not my Mother’
2. There is no ‘unforgivable sin’
3. There is no ‘handing people over to Satan’
4. ‘Heaven above is the Mother of us All’
All go to Heaven

Even while Jesus was dead

am, shortwave, and Ham radios should be put in cell phones too.

“for ye have taken away the key of knowledge:” (Bible, New Testament, Luke 11:52)

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

Public Knowledge Blew It...

Despite the RIAA/NAB Unholy Alliance to Force FM Radios Into All Cell Phones, Performance Royalties Are Still a Good Idea

it continues to amaze me how reluctant people are to take the same side as the RIAA, even when it’s right.

That would be because they NEVER HAVE been right, wouldn’t it?

And This Gem

Well, in this world. In the world where we have copyright law. You don’t do a cost/benefit analysis to see if legal rights apply in a specific case. You could frame many commercial uses of music as “promotional.” If you use some band’s music in a car commercial, there’s no doubt that you’d increase their exposure. You might even increase sales of their new album. But this is totally irrelevant: at the very least, the sole right to commercially exploit a copyrighted work should belong to the copyright holder. If you’re making a movie or a commercial, you don’t get to use someone’s music for free just because you can tell a story about how “promotional” it is. Yes, in some circumstances, the copyright owner of a sound recording might even pay to have its music played on the air. Who cares? In some circumstances a band might want to pay Apple to use its music in an iPod commercial. That doesn’t mean that Apple thereby gets to use anyone’s music for free. If a band wants to let radio stations use its music for free, it can; but there’s no reason to apply that to everyone.

Oh well can’t make everybody happy can we…

Casey says:

To everyone saying why not add AM. AM can not be added to a cell phone, because nearly all cell phones lack the space to put in an internal ferrite-rod antenna. There are other reasons as well that make it impractical, such as interference.

And to those wanting HDRadio or digital radio to be mandated, this is ridiculous, for many reasons.

-One being that HDRadio is a proprietary format that costs stations thousands yearly to operate due to licensing fees.

-Two being that virtually zero bandwidth is saved from converting to HDRadio, and therefore the FCC has nothing to gain.

-Three being that the AM version of HDRadio is very unstable in many regions, especially at night. It is also very prone to interference. The AM band is truly not suitable for anything other than analog AM radio.

-Four being that there would be millions of radios in the world that would become useless. Many people would never replace all their radio’s, they would simply do without. There are millions of tube radios that are still used by collectors that would become useless.

-Five being that HDRadio consumes far more power than analog radio, and therefore is impractical in emergency radios, portables and cell phones. Analog radios use far less energy, and crystal radios do not require any additional power.

-Six being that overall selection would decrease, as tuning in fringe stations would no longer be possible.

I could name more, but you get the idea. It is not all it is cracked up to be.

Alan Edwards (profile) says:

All about numbers?

First of all, I’d love an FM (or DAB) receiver in my iPod Touch, but I’m not sure I want a law saying it has to be there.

It’s the RIAA’s position that confuses me. Didn’t they come out and say that radio stations are basically pirates a while back? You’d think they’d be campaigning to get FM receivers banned not wanting more of them. Something fishy’s going on.

My suspicion is this is about the number of receivers. Once all phones, MP3 players etc. have FM receivers, no-one needs to count them any more, you just take the total number of devices out there.

At some point, someone can then say “there are umpty-billion FM receivers, you owe us x cents per receiver for transmitting our content to them”.


wallow-T says:

The NAB is trying to sell us on the idea that there’s a Public Safety interest in putting FM radio in every mobile device.

Hah, hah, hah! Let me tell you a story…

Earlier this summer we had a small tornado outbreak; tornado warning sirens sounded intermittently through the night, and there were several touchdowns that killed about four people within a 75 mile radius of home.

The big-city AM all-news station was a champ, covering the storm cells’s present location, and reading the stream of warnings, for about 3 out of every 5 minutes.

The FM NPR station read each warning once as it emerged from the National Weather Service, and then they went back to syndicated national talk programming. If you were late turning on the radio after the sirens went off, you missed out.

No other area radio station gave out any information I could find about the weather warnings, and the overall situation. It was all syndicated talk or music programming.

And this was in a storm situation in which people in our area died.

Ya know how we followed the storms? On weather.com’s local radar graphics!!

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

The Cellphone Makers Should Support Adding FM

In the first place, I don’t think that adding radio receiver capability would significantly increase the cost of a cellphone. The AM and FM radio signals are at comparatively low frequency, and you could probably do most of the processing in software, because a cellphone already has a processor running in at least the hundred-megaherz range. This would certainly be the case for AM radio (540 KHz-1600 KHz) but it would probably apply in large part to FM as well, up around 100 MHz. You might just as well add International-style shortwave radio (3-30 MHz). Of course, you need a sufficiently long antennae, and that is what plug-in headphones serve for, just as table radios have traditionally used the power cord as an antennae. You use an digital-analog converter to inject a measured amount of current into the headphone cable, and use an analog-digital converter to measure what you get back. Process the signal to ignore the effects of the headphone speakers, which will be operating at less that 10 KHz, then analyze the residue.


I’ve heard about the Casio “Atomic” watches, which receive broadcast time standard signals, and keep themselves synchronized to a tenth of a second or so. The time signal, WWV, is transmitted on various shortwave frequencies (2.5 MHz-20 MHz). The “Atomic” label, of course, refers to the Cesium clock at the National Institute of Standards which ultimately drives the WWV broadcast system.


The Cellphone makers should seize the initiative, and offer to incorporate radio receivers without asking any quid pro quo. That would leave the RIAA high and dry.

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