RIAA, broadcasters want mandatory FM radio in cell phones, electronics

The music industry is looking for a way to save broadcast radio, and may have found it: a legislative mandate to carry FM radio in personal electronics. Like the net neutrality debate, this idea was born out of two sides disagreeing and attempting to come to a compromise.

RIAA and broadcasters are at odds over the payment for the right to play songs on the radio. While satellite and Internet broadcasts must pay this fee, radio is exempt under current copyright law. The labels want this changed, obviously the broadcasters do not.

Congress tried to force the two sides to talk, but failed. Since then, the two parties have apparently continued to hash out a deal and are now close to having a compromise, which would in turn act as a framework for what the industry as a whole would consider acceptable legislation.

While FM radio would need to pay about $100 million a year, it would gain a whole new potential listener base by mandated FM chips in personal electronics. The broadcasters defend this idea by saying it increases "consumer choice."

This has the electronics makers up in arms. "The backroom scheme of [broadcasters] and RIAA to have Congress mandate broadcast radios in portable devices, including mobile phones, is the height of absurdity," Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro told Ars Technica.

Legislation has already moved out of committee, called the Performance Rights Act. That bill, which would force terrestrial broadcasters to pay the same fees as satellite and Internet, has been moving through Congress for the past two years.

In any case, it does appear that the industry will try hard to lobby legislators to amend the bill, and bring it to a vote as soon as possible. With the midterm elections quickly approaching, there's a good chance little movement will happen before the new Congress is seated next January.

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