Congress needs to get the FM Chip off Our Shoulders
It’s becoming quite the “in” thing in Washington for industries to request a government carve out once their product is no longer “in” – as far as consumer purchasing trends go. Enter the broadcasters. This group, like many before it, is imploring Congress to create a mandate. In this case, the mandate will force all mobile devices to include FM chips.
With fewer and fewer radios purchased, broadcasters have good reason for concern about the future prospects of their product. Thanks to the technological advances of services like Internet radio and online purchasing and downloading of music, consumers have new, more convenient options to allow them to hear their favorite tunes on their terms.
Consumers know what they want and successful companies and industries know how to adapt and innovate to meet the constantly evolving needs of consumers. At times, this leaves the industries who can’t keep up left in a cloud of dust, begging Washington for a handout.
While it may be a hard fact for broadcasters to face, there’s no reason that consumers should be penalized for choosing a better technology by forcing them to pay for FM chips on mobile devices – especially to serve a function the consumer doesn’t want.
Let’s look at this issue another way. Remember VHS tapes? Those large, book-sized objects we had to rewind. Talk about a blast from a past. Well the reason those seem so obsolete is because they are. In a matter of years of DVDs coming on to the market, the VHS tapes made their exit. The reason was simple: DVDs offered consumers a superior, faster product that allowed them to watch their favorite movies and shows in a new and improved mode. And, no pesky problem of rewinding.
The popularity of DVDs turned the poor VHS into a relic of the past. Too bad for the VHS industry that their lobby was not as on top of it as the broadcasting industry is. If VHS lobbyists had been more on the ball, they too could have insisted that Congress mandate that every purchase of a DVD had to be accompanied by a VHS purchase. And while some may think this hypothetical is a little far-fetched, it isn’t. This is precisely what the broadcasters are asking Congress to do when their lobby demands that mobile devices come equipped with FM chips.
Although the FM chip proposal is riddled with shortcomings, one of its biggest problems is an economic one. This mandate would force companies to spend money and allocate scarce resources toward adding FM chips to mobile devices. In doing so, this directs cash flow away from better technologies, which negatively impacts the entire industry as well as consumers. Instead of calling it a mandate, perhaps the broadcasters should come out and call it what it really is: an attempt to pad their bottom line.
The trouble with the broadcasters’ insistence that all mobile devices must contain an FM chip is that if consumers actually wanted this sort of feature, nothing is stopping consumers from buying wireless devices containing the chips. These products already exist in the marketplace.
What broadcasters are doing when they ask for FM chips to be added to mobile phones is akin to taking your favorite outfit and slapping an ugly, clunky accessory on it. So, tell Congress not to cramp your mobile device’s style by adding the unwanted – worse yet, uncoordinated – accessory of an FM chip.