APPLE’S RESPONSE TO FCC CHAIRMAN’S REQUEST FOR FM CHIP ACTIVATION SPARKS RESPONSE FROM BROADCASTERS

Last Thursday, after notable failure of cellular service during the recent horrific hurricanes, FCC Chairman Pai released the following statement encouraging Apple’s activation of its phones FM Chips.

“In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones sold in the United States. And I’ve specifically pointed out the public safety benefits of doing so. In fact, in my first public speech after I became chairman, I observed that ‘[y]ou could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone.’ When wireless networks go down during a natural disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow Americans to get vital access to lifesaving information. I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones. Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so. But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. That’s why I am asking Apple to activate the FM chips that are in its iPhones. It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first. As the Sun Sentinel of South Florida put it, ‘Do the right thing, [Tim Cook, CEO of Apple]. Flip the switch. Lives depend on it.”

Apple’s reply, reported in a September 29 story from Inside Radio, found Apple stating that its iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models don’t have FM chips in them or antennas designed to support FM signals.

In a statement issued Thursday, Apple said: "iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products.” Issued in response to Pai calling for activation of FM chips on iPhones for public safety reasons, Apple said it “cares deeply about the safety of our users, especially during times of crisis and that’s why we have engineered modern safety solutions into our products.” Among them are the ability to dial emergency services and access medical card info directly from the Lock Screen. Apple also says it has enabled government emergency notifications, ranging from weather advisories to AMBER alerts. But it didn’t address the technical feasibility of activating FM chips in older devices, like the iPhone 6 which it still sells at the Apple Store.

Learning of Apple’s response, NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton was quoted in a same-day NAB press release saying, "Since 2012 NAB has commissioned quarterly 'tear down' reports from ABI Research on a wide variety of Smartphones to discover their capabilities. ABI’s analysis reveals that every Apple iPhone built during that time, including the iPhone 7, has a chipset that includes support for FM radio. Apple also continues to sell an iPhone 6S with an FM chip that is not activated, and there are nearly 100 million iPhones in the marketplace with a deactivated FM chip. "Like FCC Chairman Pai, we encourage Apple to activate this feature on their future handsets so Americans can have access to lifesaving information during emergency situations, something that many local radio stations provide. We welcome the opportunity to work with Apple to make that happen."

IBA-member Elizabeth Neuhoff, President & CEO of Neuhoff Communications, a member of NAB Board’s Executive Committee, Illinois’ NAB District 17 radio representative, and IBA’s 2016 “Vincent T. Wasilewski Broadcasters of the Year” is taking action on Neuhoff stations by airing a PSA she personally recorded as well as providing her on-air Neuhoff staff with a “live” announcer script.  Both encourage consumers to demand Apple “flip the (FM Chip) switch.”

NEUHOFF COMMUNICATIONS “LIVE” SCRIPT:

Big debate going on about public safety. The FCC asked Apple to turn on the FM chip in iPhones.

Because when storms knock out power, cellular networks get overloaded or fail… Radio can still get the word out.

And Apple said: “We can’t turn on the FM chip in iPhones. iPhones don’t have an FM chip.” Well, they used to.

C’mon Apple! You took the FM chip out? You can put it back in! The FCC just wants Americans to have live FM radio on their phones.

Makes sense to me. Let’s hear from you. Join the debate at Free-Radio-On-My-Phone dot org slash Take Action.

Audio File Available below: 

IBA’s support for the FM Chip initiative dates back to 2013 when (then) Chairman of the Board Sarah Hautala introduced, and IBA’s board unanimously approved, a Resolution in support of the placement and activation of FM Chips in all U.S. cell phones.