FCC's Pai Calls on Apple to Activate FM Chips

Chairman Ajit Pai has called on Apple to activate the FM chips already in iPhones, saying it is a matter of public safety.

That would allow those phones to receive potentially lifesaving broadcast information. It would also allow broadcasters to reach those iPhone audiences more easily with news and entertainment in non-emergency situations, something broadcasters have long pushed for. The National Association of Broadcasters says it has not sought a mandate for activation, but for companies to do it voluntarily, as Pai has asked of Apple.

"When wireless networks go down during a natural disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow Americans to get vital access to life-saving information.  I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones," he said in a statement Thursday (Sept. 28).

“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.

“NAB salutes FCC Chairman Pai for his strong support for voluntary activation of FM radio chips in Apple iPhones," said NAB President Gordon Smith. "Local broadcasters are a lifeline information source in times of crisis, as Chairman Pai, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and other members of Congress and the FCC have noted. We urge Apple to acknowledge the public safety benefits of local broadcasting on SmartPhones and to light up the FM chip.”

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.