The National Association of Broadcasters, who represent radio and television broadcasters in the U.S. have mounted pressure on Apple to enable FM radio access by default on iPhones. The push comes after hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria swept parts of the U.S., with many users relying on FM radios for any information.
The FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, has insisted that although they can request Apple to enable FM radios on their devices to provide assistance during natural disasters, they can’t do much more since it’s a free market and the choice is completely left to the manufacturer. Given these factors, he said that he can’t support a government directive to enable FM radios on phones by default.
Some believe that Apple’s hesitance to enable FM radios on iPhones could be to avoid customers from listening in to free music via over-the-air radio stations. As of now, iPhone users are limited to downloading third party apps to stream over-the-air radio content on their iPhones using cellular data or WiFi.
Ajit Pai, speaking to WPBF 25, an affiliate of ABC, said – “The FM chip is a valuable functionality, not just when times are good or when it helps you save battery life or reduces congestion on the wireless network, but especially when it’s an emergency. People want to tune in to the radio broadcast and get emergency information and this can be a valuable way of doing that.”
In a scenario where citizens are stuck under buildings or other monuments during a natural disaster, having access to an FM radio can help in gathering information from news outlets. In some cases where people are stuck under rubble for weeks or even months, a feature like this can be very handy.
Given Apple’s silence in the matter, we aren’t too optimistic about seeing a change in policy anytime soon. But with pressure mounting on the Cupertino giant, there should be a response fairly soon.