Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Hey, what's on the radio?
August 16, 2010 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Radio, RIAA: mandatory FM radio in cell phones is the future. 'Music labels and radio broadcasters can't agree on much, including whether radio should be forced to turn over hundreds of millions of dollars a year to pay for the music it plays. But the two sides can agree on this: Congress should mandate that FM radio receivers be built into cell phones, PDAs, and other portable electronics. The Consumer Electronics Association, whose members build the devices that would be affected by such a directive, is incandescent with rage. "The backroom scheme of the [National Association of Broadcasters] and RIAA to have Congress mandate broadcast radios in portable devices, including mobile phones, is the height of absurdity," thundered CEA president Gary Shapiro. Such a move is "not in our national interest." "Rather than adapt to the digital marketplace, NAB and RIAA act like buggy-whip industries that refuse to innovate and seek to impose penalties on those that do." But the music and radio industries say it's a consumer-focused proposition, one that would provide "more music choices."'

Meanwhile, technological evolution toward digital radion seems to not be quite so rapid.

'Media's gone digital, from webcasts of the nightly news to online posts from newspapers. But radio? Not so much. Federal regulators mandated digitize TV, and print media took it upon themselves to go online. Digital radio, however, has remained in limbo for years.'
posted by VikingSword (96 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I, for one, appreciate the government-mandated horse that is attached to my car.

His name is Rusty.
posted by leotrotsky at 2:24 PM on August 16, 2010 [27 favorites]


But radio? Not so much.

Maybe the local stations aren't digital, but I (heart) my Pandora stations and soma.fm streams.
posted by jquinby at 2:26 PM on August 16, 2010


FM but not AM? That's peculiarly selective.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:26 PM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


what is this I don't even

This is seriously the craziest idea ever.

Having said that, I think pretty much every Android phone that's ever shipped actually does contain an FM radio because most TI wifi chipsets have chip-level support for picking up FM and transmitting it too. No one bothers building the functionality into the rest of the system though. So it's not like this actually has any real addition bill of materials costs beyond an extra antenna.
posted by GuyZero at 2:29 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


FM radio? I didn't even know they still made that!
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 2:30 PM on August 16, 2010


Why just FM and not also AM?
posted by gyc at 2:33 PM on August 16, 2010


I don't think AM radio stations have a lobbying group they're paying to create crazy proposals like this. Plus, from a technical perspective, AM stinks. Building an AM radio into an iPod or some equivalent is probably really, really hard mostly because the device tends to generate noise in the same band it's trying to receive.
posted by GuyZero at 2:33 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


FM but not AM? That's peculiarly selective.

For some reason there's just never an AM receiver with portable music players. Every music player I have (including phone and mp3 players) has an FM receiver, but none of them have an AM receiver, and I've never even heard of such a thing. I'm not sure if it has to do with antennae or just the added cost of an AM receiver circuit vs how many people still listen to AM. It was especially annoying in cities where ESPN radio was AM only.

In general though, while I don't think it should be mandated by legislation, I've never understood why some music players don't have an FM receiver. Even if it's not often used, I doubt it costs that much to add. But then again, there's only one major line of mp3 players/phones that I know of which can't handle FM. And even there the Nano has it now, instead of a ridiculously expensive add-on.
posted by kmz at 2:34 PM on August 16, 2010


That said, some PCs from the early days of sound cards used to be able to pick up AM radio stations pretty well with no additional hardware just due to their lack of RF shielding.
posted by GuyZero at 2:35 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


please repeat after me:

THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT DICTATE SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGY IMPLEMENTATIONS.

That is all.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:38 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, AM broadcasts roughly around 1MHz vs roughly 100MHz for FM so an AM antenna would need to be a lot bigger assuming the standard quarter-wave antenna. By comparison wifi is 2.4 GHz so a FM antenna would have to be about 10x the size of a wifi antenna and an AM antenna would need to be 100x bigger than that for equivalent performance.
posted by GuyZero at 2:39 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT DICTATE SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGY IMPLEMENTATIONS.

Well, other than the FCC's mandate of OTA broadcast formats. That's working out pretty well so far.
posted by GuyZero at 2:39 PM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wait, wasn't there an "urban myth / Youtube video spoof" about the RIAA mandating radio hardware a few years ago?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:42 PM on August 16, 2010


My Android phone has an FM tuner built into it, it uses the headphones as an antennae. It works pretty well, but it is stupid to mandate.
posted by trbrts at 2:43 PM on August 16, 2010


THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT DICTATE SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGY IMPLEMENTATIONS.

I always liked the seat belt mandate.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:43 PM on August 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


I hope the Citizens' Band Radio lobbyists don't catch wind of this and get CB's tacked onto the requirements. I really don't want to have to learn the 10 codes all over again.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 2:43 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


My specific "radio" listening on my portable device is podcasts & last.fm. Message to RIAA: your ship sailed. I still listen to FM in the car on occasion--NPR, WCBN, Tigers broadcasts. But my phone? I pretty much want to be able to place & receive calls.
posted by beelzbubba at 2:45 PM on August 16, 2010


THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT DICTATE SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGY IMPLEMENTATIONS
Except for things like, oh, seatbelts in cars. Or emissions standards in power plants. Or standard colours for electrical wiring in houses and buildings. Actually yes, the Government (or delegated authorities) should definitely dictate specific technology implementations.

That said: this proposal is bizarre.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:47 PM on August 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


deck chairs...Titanic...yada yada yada..
posted by briank at 2:47 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is an FM receiver easier to integrate into other technologies? My MP3 player has a (shitty) FM receiver, which I never use. But there have been several occassions where I would have used an AM receiver. For some reason I though AM was the simpler technology.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 2:48 PM on August 16, 2010


There's nothing specific implementation, it's a generic implementation. If it works because of pixie dust and wishes or because of a specific chipset manufactured by Some Big Company, it doesn't matter, as long as everyone can be barraged with the Top Ten Tunes, All Day! then we all win.

Oh, and emergency information is most easily distributed via radio.

That said, the bounty that was Web Radio died under threats of high taxes in 2002. Since then, there have been fewer, bigger stations, akin to the commercial landscape. There are still small stations, but the buffet of options closed years ago.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:49 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Protectionist rackets suck. Corporatism sucks. If there was really a demand for this stuff you wouldn't need to force anyone to do it.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:51 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm still trying to learn to ignore the FM radio in my dental filling. Fun for pranks at school tho
posted by circular at 2:52 PM on August 16, 2010


I think RIAA is a branch of the Mafia.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:55 PM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, and emergency information is most easily distributed via radio.

Citation needed. Seems to me that I've read about emergency notification in Korea & Japan via cellphone. Near ubiquitous penetration of coverage resulted in faster notification than by radio.

Granted that if there's a widespread power failure, battery or crank powered radio (no I don't mean Glenn Beck) would remain the most effective method, but I get early storm warning notice from auto messaging on my cell phone, not from my radio or tv.
posted by beelzbubba at 2:56 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


For some reason I though AM was the simpler technology.

If I gave you raw materials, yes, an AM receiver would be easier to build. But given the frequency band allocations and issues like noise rejection, FM works much, much better and is worth the complexity. There's a reason there are nearly no music AM stations left.
posted by GuyZero at 2:57 PM on August 16, 2010


This is less about the government dictating a technology standard and more about putting the power of the government behind anticompetitive behavior (tying), when exactly the opposite should be occurring.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:02 PM on August 16, 2010


they argue that radio provides valuable promotion to artists and shouldn't have to pay [full performance fees]

If thats why they need to force everyone to have a radio in their device, then they should definitely force manufacturers to include Bittorrent as well.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 3:11 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know whether I'd go so far as to say it should be mandated, but I think there are advantages to including FM on mobiles. It would allow listeners who can't afford data plans (and thus can't access podcasts and live streaming as easily) access to radio programming. I also think the PSA aspect of radio on mobiles has merit. I would like this feature - not because I love my local crappy top 40 station, and not because I'm a fan of the RIAA - but because it would be neat for community radio stations to be more easily tuned in to.
posted by radiocontrolled at 3:12 PM on August 16, 2010


I am reasonably sure that with enough time and effort, I could think of a more stupid idea. I will prolly need some beer first, though.
posted by elizardbits at 3:19 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it should be the opposite: every FM radio should be required to have a built-in cellphone.
posted by mullingitover at 3:25 PM on August 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


It would allow listeners who can't afford data plans (and thus can't access podcasts and live streaming as easily) access to radio programming.

Or, you know, they could buy a radio. You can get one for about 5 bucks.
posted by Roger Dodger at 3:26 PM on August 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Isn't the consumer electronics industry at least an order of magnitude larger than the music industry?
posted by straight at 3:27 PM on August 16, 2010


Didn't the American radio industry just spend the last 30 years systematically gutting FM radio of any listenable content? Surprise: now that you have no decent product, nobody wants it.
posted by mek at 3:30 PM on August 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


My prediction:

If the Government refuses to mandate this, the Tea Party Founding Father Patriot Superhero Freedom Defenders will frame this as Obama curtailing free speech (just like net neutrality is a free speech issue) and being all anti-business, but if the Government actually caves in and does mandate this, it will be framed as Obama forcing the installation of secret mind control radio transmitters (because, you know - receivers, transmitters - it's all the same thing!) into cell phones. Plus, it's FM, not AM, and everyone knows AM is the Radio of the People (because that's where talk radio lives) and FM is lib'rul elitist NPR-territory.
posted by kcds at 3:33 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait, FM still plays music? I think I gave up on FM when a local NPR affiliate started getting flaky interference for no reason I could think of.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:36 PM on August 16, 2010


I had a phone with FM radio, and loved it. When that phone was swiped, I replaced it with a Blackberry, and FM radio was not an option. So sad. I miss it.

Oh, mandatory, dumb. But mobile phone makers are all about copying each other, and looking cool. I am not young or hip. I want my gadget to be really functional.
posted by theora55 at 3:39 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


This initiative sponsored by the makers of Gold Bond Medicated Powder. Gold Bond: a trusted name in medicated powders since back when your mom was hot.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:40 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is precedent for this kind of thing. In the 1960's, when transistor radios (as they were known then) became big, most of them were AM-only. Eventually the FCC decreed that after a certain date, all portable radios that could receive AM had to also include an FM tuner. That was when FM took off. Before that, FM was a niche and AM was king.

So it's happened before. That doesn't mean it should happen again, of course.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:43 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


For some reason there's just never an AM receiver with portable music players.

Antenna size. The smallest practical AM receiving antenna is coil wrapped around a ferrite bar -- the loopstick antenna. They take far too much space for modern players.

FM, being broadcast at a higher frequency, needs a much shorter antenna. On a modern portable player without a speaker, there's another trick -- use the ground wire on the earphones as the antenna! So, you don't need as long an antenna (or a massive inductor to bring a hopelessly short antenna into resonance), and you automatically put the antenna outside of the case, so you need practically no space in the case for the antenna.

FM receivers are much more complicated than AM receivers, but that cost has disappeared as well, thanks to FM-on-a-chip ASCICs. If AM didn't require such strong inductance and long wires, they'd be in there as well.
posted by eriko at 3:44 PM on August 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Slack-a-gogo: I hope the Citizens' Band Radio lobbyists don't catch wind of this and get CB's tacked onto the requirements. I really don't want to have to learn the 10 codes all over again.

That's a big 10-4, good buddy!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:46 PM on August 16, 2010


Even if you're a public radio listener, an iPhone is far superior as a listening device than a radio.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 3:48 PM on August 16, 2010


Someday your "lulz" will seem as dated as the 10-4.
posted by GuyZero at 3:49 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


> I always liked the seat belt mandate.

I thought I would too but I can't pick up XERB on mine. AM or FM.
posted by jfuller at 3:50 PM on August 16, 2010


This is awesome -- I'm a radio addict, but haven't found a device I like with an FM receiver. Now everything will have it!

Of course, it is a big imposition -- but it's an imposition of something I like, therefore it's okay.

/hamburger, kind of
posted by jb at 3:51 PM on August 16, 2010


I know I hear radio all the time; when the alarm goes off in a hotel room, when somebody drives by with the windows down, when I'm waiting somewhere in some waiting room, the radio is all of those places.

But, for the life of me, I cannot remember the last time I actually desired to play the radio for my own listening. My wife likes NPR, but with the Clear Channel-ification of the airwaves I don't think I've listened to the radio by design since I got my first CD burner however long ago that was.

On the other hand, this move seems so incredably desperate that it makes me hopeful that the RIAA is just plain old running out of ideas, and therefore money, and therefore time. God willing.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:04 PM on August 16, 2010


"We would argue that having radio capability on cell phones and other mobile devices would be a great thing, particularly from a public safety perspective. There are few if any technologies that match the reliability of broadcast radio in terms of getting lifeline information to the masses."

That's actually pretty reasonable. I can imagine being really grateful for this feature once Joe Lieberman turns off the internet.
posted by Sfving at 4:09 PM on August 16, 2010


This is almost certain to pass due to the incredible work the RIAA has put into building grassroots support by wholeheartedly embracing digital sharing of music and taking the high road of facilitating new technologies rather than suing the shit out of ma and pa when junior downloads a few MP3s that he wasn't going to buy anyway

oh wait
posted by unSane at 4:25 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why am I supposed to be angry about this?
posted by Sebmojo at 4:51 PM on August 16, 2010


sebmojo: because they are trying to force you to buy shit you don't need and wouldn't pay for if you had the choice, which is annoying and unfair.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:59 PM on August 16, 2010


I don't think you're supposed to be angry, I think you are supposed to be flabbergasted at the sheer stupidity. Desperation breeds insanity, clearly.
posted by spicynuts at 5:02 PM on August 16, 2010


Being one the of the 30 or so people who own a Zune HD, and living in a place with usually lousy FM reception, I initially scoffed; "Ooo, it has a RADIO in it....and an HD radio at that.../sarcasm".

But then I realized a couple of things - I'm not always net-connected, and there are times I appreciate the ability to get local sources and spontaneous music discovery, so FM is nice. I would have found it unbearable without the clarity and signal-lock of HD/digital radio, though - I gave up on listening to static in 1987.

Then I noticed something else about the HD radio digital stream. Being able to carry more track and artist information also meant that a smart device could pick up on that information. I heard a new track I liked on FM radio, looked at my device to see who it was, and noticed that besides the information about the song, there was a little "Add to Cart" icon. Hear it in the radio? Like it? Mark it and impulse buy it when you next sync up with your 'puter.

If an HD FM radio tuner drove more impulse-buy purchases to the iTunes store, I bet Apple could find a way to fit one inside the iPhone 5. And if my guess is right and Windows Phone 7 whateverlongname is going to start as a ZuneHD with a phone around it, it'll be one of the few draws for the Zune music store. And I won't need a satellite radio in my car.
posted by bartleby at 5:12 PM on August 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


i *love* radio & you take your pandoras & last.fms and keep them*. i've been looking for a radio app--an app that picks up & plays LOCAL stations--for my nexus one for a week now. if anyone has any suggestions, please memail me.

*actually, i don't have a problem with either of those & use them on occasion. but nothing, absolutely nothing, beats live local radio. as someone who lives in a hurricane zone, i don't know what good pandora would do me with a storm bearing down.
posted by msconduct at 5:16 PM on August 16, 2010


I support this on the condition that all devices mandated to have built in FM radios also be required to have the ability to automatically record and tag (via RDS) songs off FM, as standard, copyable MP3s.
posted by fings at 5:23 PM on August 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Memories from my childhood of the commercial broadcasting era contain much material on something known as "irregularity" and also how firmly something called "poly-grip" held.
posted by telstar at 5:26 PM on August 16, 2010


Speaking as a radio person...

...that's a fucking stupid idea.

(Although I do wish someone made an Android phone with an FM receiver in it that cost less than our mortgage. Hey, maybe Apple will add one to the iPhone like they did with iPods not long ago, and then every new phone'll get them overnight.)
posted by genghis at 5:26 PM on August 16, 2010


I think it's a good idea. That is, if it means everyone will be carrying around mobile phones that look like this.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:45 PM on August 16, 2010


Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don't give you any choice 'cause they think that it's treason
So you had better do as you are told
You better listen to the radio
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:47 PM on August 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Radio, someone still loves you.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:49 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Didn't the American radio industry just spend the last 30 years systematically gutting FM radio of any listenable content? Surprise: now that you have no decent product, nobody wants it

Exactly! Driving through an NPR dead-zone this morning I had my finger on the Scan button... what a fucking wasteland, with three "Tom Bill and Linda In The Morning" shows, and two stations broadcasting Rush, a third broadcasting a time-delayed Glenn Beck...

... the second I can listen to NPR reliably over a digital cell network I won't be turning my radio back on.
posted by odinsdream at 6:02 PM on August 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I tried writing the RIAA a letter, but it bounced. I took the address off their website. I figure any organization that doesn't even have a valid address is a fucking scam.

I wanted to try to report them the Homeland Security as a terrorist organization, but that when I found the limits of my testicular fortitude.

The RIAA is evil. I've said it about every time they come up.

Also, if radio didn't suck I wouldn't want my mp3 player.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:16 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually yes, the Government (or delegated authorities) should definitely dictate specific technology implementations.

Except when it's things we people who "get it" DON'T like, AMIRITE?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:00 PM on August 16, 2010


I've always loved the phrase "incandescent with rage."
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:39 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


the hate i have for the RIAA burns like the fire of a thousand suns
posted by liza at 7:46 PM on August 16, 2010


There's actually a new mobile digital TV format called, appropriately, Mobile Digital TV. Unlike regular digital TV it provides clean signals in moving portable devices. It is being broadcast already in many cities in the US.

The cable and broadcasting companies should get together to encourage Congress to make a law to force that standard into portable devices.

Actually they shouldn't; but if you are going to force ancient media into state-of-the art consumer devices, why not go whole hog?
posted by eye of newt at 7:47 PM on August 16, 2010


Oh jeez! I did some more research, and they are trying to force digital TV into cell phones!
posted by eye of newt at 7:50 PM on August 16, 2010


Goddamn I hate radio. My experience usually goes something like this. Let's see what's on the radio...

TONIGHT MONSTERTRUCKS AT THE KINGDOME! WIN A FREE TRIP TO MOOONSTER TRUCK MANIAAAAAAA! COORS LIGHT IS SPONSORING AN ALL-EXPENSES PAID TRIP TO THURSD...

*click*

Then I go hug my iPod.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:53 PM on August 16, 2010


Without radio, how can the Wolverines listen to coded messages from the resistance in Occupied America?
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:02 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Radio, someone still loves you.

AWESOMEST GA GA REFERENCE EVER
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:42 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know, I think that combining radios and modern electronic devices could be pretty neat.

It wouldn't be what the morons pushing for this think it would be, though. They think that people would just passively sit there and listen to the radio, like they do in their cars now ... but people only do that because in-car radios are (mostly) really, really dumb devices. My car's radio has only slightly more processing power than a pocket calculator from 1982. It's digitally tuned, but basically an analog device from there on out.

But a modern cellphone, like an Android ... that's a different thing entirely.

If they're going to put an FM radio in there, people are going to do stuff with it. I could imagine having the incoming radio stream recorded to disk, TiVo-style, on a continuous buffer. This would let you take out commercials. (You'd need a shit-ton of buffer, because commercial radio is like 50% commercials as far as I can tell, but you could do it.)

And since it's pretty clear that the kids don't really care about sound quality per se, why not just break the recordings up by song and add them to your MP3 collection? You could probably build some fairly simple web service for "social" tagging to fill in the metadata based on the listening area and station ... or even use that embedded text transmission that some stations are helpfully broadcasting now.

I don't know how the FM receivers in phones are designed, but if they give the DSP access to the signal at the IF stage, then you might be able to listen to multiple stations at the same time ... so you could automatically grab and record big chunks of the band, and only play back the stuff that's clear (maybe even matching certain parameters; i.e. not ads or talking). I don't know how good algorithms are at picking out music from speech and noise, but I suspect it's doable.

If the industry manages to push this through, it'll almost certainly speed rather than slow their demise.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:44 PM on August 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


> Except when it's things we people who "get it" DON'T like, AMIRITE?

Yerrite. And I so love it when the tidal wave of metafilter libertarians decides to come out and play.
posted by jfuller at 9:05 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Is an FM receiver easier to integrate into other technologies? My MP3 player has a (shitty) FM receiver, which I never use. But there have been several occassions where I would have used an AM receiver. For some reason I though AM was the simpler technology."

Simpler but bulkier; you can practically see AM radio waves [hamburger] and their ain't any way to miniaturize that.

"Even if you're a public radio listener, an iPhone is far superior as a listening device than a radio."

You know, except for the two orders of magnitude difference in initial price, the heavy difference in power consumption and the monthly fee vs. no recurring cost aspects.

"I don't think you're supposed to be angry, I think you are supposed to be flabbergasted at the sheer stupidity. Desperation breeds insanity, clearly."

I wouldn't call this stupid. Audacious sure. You've got to admire their chutzpa. But not stupid.

"Although I do wish someone made an Android phone with an FM receiver in it that cost less than our mortgage. Hey, maybe Apple will add one to the iPhone like they did with iPods not long ago, and then every new phone'll get them overnight."

This is really the tack RIAA et.al. should take. Wheel a barrow full of cash to APPLE HQ and presto chango radios in the majority of phones. Couple it with the buy it now aspect of a smart listening device and it's a big ol win for everyone without the need for government, bad press and basically pissing everyone off.
posted by Mitheral at 9:13 PM on August 16, 2010


"I don't know how good algorithms are at picking out music from speech and noise, but I suspect it's doable."

I bet this is pretty easy for 99% of the FM band. Music is heavily compressed and talking isn't. Though the stations will compress the dynamic range during broadcast so the effects might be masked.
posted by Mitheral at 9:21 PM on August 16, 2010


BOY ARE THEY GOING TO BE SURPRISED WHEN WE SWITCH ON THE FM INTERNET
posted by Mike Mongo at 9:55 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Goddamn I hate radio. My experience usually goes something like this. Let's see what's on the radio...

"TONIGHT MONSTERTRUCKS AT THE KINGDOME!"


Dude! You can time-travel?!
posted by litlnemo at 12:12 AM on August 17, 2010


I don't know how the FM receivers in phones are designed, but if they give the DSP access to the signal at the IF stage...

Um. This law is written by the RIAA. The signal will be encrypted all the way to the headphone jack.
posted by Vetinari at 12:26 AM on August 17, 2010


Although this is silly, I find it pretty hard to really care about. At least the last three phones I've owned have had a built in FM radio. I haven't this feature once.
posted by rhymer at 1:22 AM on August 17, 2010


One of the first paid apps I got for my iPhone was WunderRadio which streams seemingly any radio station from anywhere. I was able to listen to the local radio cricket commentaries from my home town, something I couldn't do with FM or AM. Radio has moved on from me listening to The Grumbleweeds and John Peel under the pillow at night...
posted by i_cola at 1:24 AM on August 17, 2010


Begin the day with a friendly voice,
A companion that's mandated by law.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:21 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mitheral: "You know, except for the two orders of magnitude difference in initial price, the heavy difference in power consumption and the monthly fee vs. no recurring cost aspects."

Admittedly, I run the app on an iPod Touch, which relies on WiFi, and the power consumption difference, and all that.

Here's the thing, though: unless you live in New York, or LA, or DC (kinda) or Chicago (kinda), your public radio station sucks. And it doesn't suck because public radio sucks (far from it), it sucks because it's probably playing three hours of All Things Considered and two / three airings of Prairie Home Companion and Car Talk every weekend instead of playing The Sound of Young America or RadioLab or WireTap or Studio 360 or The Takeaway or many of the other really great public radio programs that don't get syndicated nearly enough. Occasionally, your station will even do something really shitty like cancel Fresh Air and fire the guy who leaked it to the press because Louis CK talked about sex on it one time. It is really, really great to be able to grab any public radio station from around the country during those times.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:06 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ya, we don't get any of that. Public radio is the CBC which admittedly has about 7 hours of daily programing that they expand to cover 16 hours and then 8 hours of foreign news and classic music. Not that even the latter is all that bad; one of the great things about starting work at 5AM is listening to English language Polish news.

Of the local commercial stations over half are locally owned by people who actually live here and less than 35% of their programming is syndicated, mostly the midnight to 6AM block. It has most of the irritating problems of commercial radio but it is local and not Clear Channel or a Wannabe.
posted by Mitheral at 7:42 AM on August 17, 2010


Mitheral: "Ya, we don't get any of that"

When making that point, I should be more conscious of the income problem, and I apologize. But, to that point, quality (sometimes controversial) arts and culture programming shouldn't be reserved to the literati or those of us who live walking distance from Apple Stores.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:01 AM on August 17, 2010


It's been about six years since I've owned a cellphone without an FM radio built-in. Not because I specifically want that feature, but because they've just all happened to have one. In that time, I've had eight of 'em. My latest one also has an FM transmitter. That's much more useful, IMO.

I don't really see why this ought to be mandated, though. I suppose it might save some load on cell networks if people are streaming their local stations in absence of a built-in radio. Another confounding factor is that you can't really build a decent FM antenna into a device as small as a cell phone. On all the ones I've had, a wired headset doubles as the FM antenna.
posted by wierdo at 8:43 AM on August 17, 2010


l33tpolicywonk: Don't forget Dallas. KERA, our NPR/PBS affiliate, is pretty awesome. They even have separate channels for talk and music.
posted by shponglespore at 8:48 AM on August 17, 2010


BOY ARE THEY GOING TO BE SURPRISED WHEN WE SWITCH ON THE FM INTERNET

Shockingly, such a thing kind of exists, at least until 2012.
posted by GuyZero at 9:15 AM on August 17, 2010


Thinking more about it, there are quite a few devices out there which have the FM tuner hardware built in already (hello iPhone), as many of the WiFi/BT chipsets also have an FM tuner tossed in "for free," but for whatever reason don't expose it to the end user. I would find a mandate that any device that has the hardware built in also have the necessary software reasonable.

I still don't think mandating the FM hardware is a good idea, though.
posted by wierdo at 9:18 AM on August 17, 2010


I would find a mandate that any device that has the hardware built in also have the necessary software reasonable.

This mandate is nonsensical because there are many thousands of features that come on various chip packages that aren't even relevant to a given device. It's often not possible to buy a chip that only does the single thing you need because it's much cheaper to produce a chip that does lots of stuff, and sell it to many different types of customers.
posted by odinsdream at 10:41 AM on August 17, 2010


I don't see what's nonsensical about mandating that any device that includes an FM radio receiver and has the capability of outputting audio to headphones also have the software. In most cell phones, that would be the one on-chip feature that isn't used.
posted by wierdo at 11:23 AM on August 17, 2010


wierdo:

The problem I see with that is two-fold:

You're mandating something based on the idea that "it's already there on the chip" somehow equates to "easy to implement" which isn't the case, and that such a mandate specifically targeting one type of on-chip functionality would disproportionately favor one industry.

When selecting an audio chip, it may not be possible to find one without FM capabilities, even if the cell-phone manufacturer had no desire for it.

To a chip-maker it's easier to make one line of chips that include something for two markets than it is to make two separate lines, especially with something like FM which would piggyback on some of the functions a DSP already does.

If such a mandate were to be put in place you'd instantly create a market for special audio chips that specifically don't include FM functionality, or chips that have a solder pad that needs to be filled in to enable the FM functionality expressly to serve the market of cell-phone designers not wanting it.
posted by odinsdream at 11:38 AM on August 17, 2010


...that would be the one on-chip feature that isn't used.

This is flatly untrue. Audio chips include thousands of functions that cell phones won't ever expose to a user. For example, most audio chips probably contain a bunch of synthesizer functions, maybe even a few instrument voices. It would be ridiculous to make a a legal requirement that cell phone designers include a virtual Casio keyboard on every cell phone.
posted by odinsdream at 11:42 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somebody! Please halp!! Clearstation needs your help if its to survive.
posted by Fupped Duck at 12:06 PM on August 17, 2010


odinsdream wrote: "This is flatly untrue. Audio chips include thousands of functions that cell phones won't ever expose to a user. For example, most audio chips probably contain a bunch of synthesizer functions, maybe even a few instrument voices. It would be ridiculous to make a a legal requirement that cell phone designers include a virtual Casio keyboard on every cell phone."

Which cell phone is it that doesn't take MIDI ringtones? Not that it matters; I was specifically referring to the FM radio function.

And no, it's actually not difficult at all to make the FM receiver work, as evidenced by someone writing an FM receiver application for the N900 in a matter of days after release. (if even that long).

Anyway, I'm not saying there should be such a requirement, only that it would be reasonable compared to mandating that each phone include an FM radio.
posted by wierdo at 2:22 PM on August 17, 2010


Oh, and comparing an FM receiver to software-defined DSP functions is just stupid. Sorry, it is.
posted by wierdo at 2:23 PM on August 17, 2010


I also hear that every television will come with a Gypsy puppet theater. "Fore the telling of taeles most beneficient tou the growth of the childe." (Penny Arcade comic, for amusement and posterity.)
posted by filthy light thief at 7:36 AM on August 18, 2010


Oh, and comparing an FM receiver to software-defined DSP functions is just stupid. Sorry, it is.

How unfortunate for me, since otherwise we could have a conversation about your thoughts on the matter.

You're saying it makes sense to mandate that manufacturers expose chip functions to the user, if it's on the chip. I'm saying that isn't the case, because development costs for supporting a function far exceed the miniscule extra cost of having those functions dormant on the chip.
posted by odinsdream at 12:58 PM on August 18, 2010


I'm saying it would be more reasonable than mandating that they include the hardware.

Given that a DSP can do hundreds or thousands of different things, depending on how it is programmed, it simply doesn't make sense to compare it to an FM receiver, which is a singular function.

Note that I never said that manufacturers should be required to expose all functions of whatever chips they include, merely that mandating that devices including an FM receiver that also have audio output capability (and a headphone jack or other antenna) also include software to operate said already extant radio would be reasonable, whereas requiring that manufacturers include a chip with an FM receiver function would be less so.

Of course, I don't really have a problem with the V-Chip mandate, either.
posted by wierdo at 3:53 PM on August 18, 2010


« Older 30 Dates. 30 Days. 30 Cities. "Kevin Richberg, a ...  |  "It was two final actions in t... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments