The National Association of Broadcasters is very displeased with a new report that found FM radio on mobile phones is not a popular feature. The heated discussion is fueled by the NAB’s support for legislation requiring that FM radio be included in all mobile devices, a concept that raises the ire of several industry groups led by the Consumer Electronics Association and CTIA – The Wireless Association.

Dennis Wharton, NAB executive vice president of communications, said the report commissioned by consultancy Mark Ramsey Media reached, “glass-half-empty conclusions on a poorly designed survey to fit his own pre-conceived negative opinion.”

The study by VIP Media Research asked radio listeners about their habits. Of the 70 percent who use mobile phones, 17 percent currently have FM radio built in. And of those, 44.3 percent ever use it. By contrast, personal radio apps like Pandora, Slacker and Spotify get used by 77.6 percent of those who downloaded it.

The NAB counters with a 2010 Harris poll that found 73 percent of people thought “it was important to have a radio built into their cell phone.” Wharton’s editorial further suggests any reluctance to include free over-the-air radio service is driven by the greed of those who charge for bandwidth. It’s even a “moral imperative” that phones have FM chips, he wrote, so that people can “receive continuous, lifesaving information during an emergency.”

Ramsey’s report doesn’t conclude radio should be eliminated from phones, however. In fact, it stresses that radio listeners with mobile phones are almost twice as likely to download a personalized radio app as they are to have FM built-in. Additionally, people who download a radio app are considerably more likely to choose a personalized app than a single-station app.

He suggests that FM radio stations should have an app, first of all. And if they already have one, they should improve its functionality and promote it better, since otherwise people see no reason to add it to their phone.

Fundamentally, however, Ramsey observes that FM stations have one insurmountable characteristic that may hinder their popularity on phones. “These apps don’t have the functionality of personalized radio apps,” he wrote. They just don’t do the same thing.”

Related Links:

Mark Ramsey Media survey post –

NAB editorial in Radio Ink –

Ramsey’s reply to NAB editorial –

Full report on Radio Media Applications (PDF) –