Harris Poll: Consumers Want Radio-capable Cell Phones

September 15, 2010

Washington - Sep 14, 2010 - A poll from Harris Interactive supports the stance of the National Association of Broadcasters that a sizeable majority of American cell phone users would like the ability to listen to terrestrial radio stations through a built-in radio receiver on a mobile phone. The survey, conducted as part of an online nationwide omnibus survey of 2,587 adults representing the U.S. general adult population, was conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by the NAB.

NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton says, "Unfortunately, most U.S. mobile phone users have been denied over-the-air access to their favorite free and local stations. With much of the U.S. cell phone market built upon exclusive contracts between carriers and manufacturers, most consumers are left paying for fee-based data-intensive streaming apps with no free, broadcast alternative."

The Consumer Electronics Association does not agree. Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CEA replied, "We agree with the NAB that some consumers may want phones with FM receivers -- and they can have them, since numerous models of radio-equipped phones are already on the market. But the NAB forgot to ask they key question: Do Americans really want the government designing their phones and digital devices?"

Shapiro says the NAB doesn't care what consumers want by turning "FM" into "forced mandate" they want to make the consumer buy a radio whether they want one or not. Shapiro's statement concluded with, "We [the CEA] recognize that broadcasters are facing competition from new, increasingly popular services. But rather than trying to save their horse and buggy business with government mandates, broadcasters should embrace innovation and begin providing services that Americans will actually want to use."

The NAB highlighted certain elements of the Harris poll:

  • Three-quarters (76 percent) of cell phone owners would consider paying a one-time fee of 30 cents to access local radio stations through a built-in radio chip.

  • Local weather and music are the top reasons they would listen to their local stations on their cell phones.

  • Seventy-three percent of cell phone owners indicated that having a radio built into their cell phone capable of providing local weather and emergency alerts in real-time would be "very" or "somewhat" important.

  • While two thirds (66 percent) of adults would use a built-in radio, young adults are even more likely to use such a feature. Seventy-one percent of 18-44 year olds as well as 73 percent of single and never married adults indicated they would use a built-in radio to listen to local stations if their phone was equipped to receive local radio stations without using mobile apps or their cell phone provider's data plan.

    In a blog, the NAB's Wharton suggests what might motivate U.S. wireless carriers and device manufacturers to prevent consumer access to FM-enabled cell phones: "It could be a simple case of anti-competitive behavior," he wrote. "Every minute a cell phone user listens to free, local radio is one less minute spent using the wireless industry''s fee-based applications. Moreover, since listening to local radio would require no network bandwidth, cell phone subscribers wouldn''t be forced to pay the escalating rates associated with streaming data-rich, fee-based applications."

    The NAB placed an ad in the Sept. 15 issue of Politico suggesting the importance of including an FM receiver in cell phones.

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