Internet radio veteran and RAIN Summits president Jennifer Lane is herself living through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. A resident of Connecticut, she's now into her fourth day without power in her home. And her situation made her think about the value of an FM radio chip in mobile phones.
Radio broadcasters in the U.S. want the government to require mobile phone manufacturers to include a chip in their devices so users can receive analog FM broadcasts (instead of relying on streams). They argue the chip would enable users to receive emergency broadcasts during times of disaster, when phone networks are likely to go down. Device manufacturers, on the other hand, say broadcasters simply want to use the power of the government to keep their outdated broadcast technology relevant. They say if users really wanted FM radio on their phones, they'd be forced by the market to include it.
Lane says an FM chip to listen to local radio wouldn't help her, unfortunately. "Most stations have few or no news reporters. So there’s a ton of local news and a real dearth of local news reporting."
Lane explains that if broadcasters in her market offered important local information -- the latest on the power outage, which roads are flooded, where to find an Internet connection, and even more vital data like where to find showers and water -- this could do a lot to support broadcasters arguments.
And that's not to say that there haven't been broadcasters that have done an exemplary job of providing their markets with important, relevant emergency information. But many were also hampered by the severe weather (read more here), which likely weakens their claim of an advantage over mobile networks.
Lane says her personal experience didn't speak much in favor of an FM chip mandate. "Unfortunately, a lot of local radio stations have peeled back their staffs to such a point that the only 'local' programming they offer is top-of-the-hour headline news, and some ads. That’s not the kind of thing that is going to make people listen on their smartphones, even if they could."
Read her Audio4cast blog (which she was able to upload from a friend's Internet connection) here.