A Campaign to Get Free Radio on Your Mobile Phone

Deep within virtually ever mobile phone manufactured today is a tiny chip capable of receiving FM broadcasts. You’d never know it, though, because it’s not turned on. Why? Because mobile phone providers have no interest in anything that might steer people away from consuming bandwidth on their (overpriced) data plans. FM radio is, of course, free. It’s three times less taxing on the battery than data and consumes 20x less bandwidth.

This is enormously frustrating to broadcasters who would love to have an FM radio in everyone’s pocket or purse. And then there’s the public safety aspect.

When the cell phone grid was threatened in Fort McMurray, the most reliable way of transmitting emergency information was old-fashioned radio.

There’s a campaign in the US for the government to mandate the activation of FM chips in all cell phones–with some success, too, thanks to Emmis and their solution called NextRadio–and there’s a growing call for the Canadian government to do the same thing. The National Campus and Community Radio Association here in Canada is demanding that Bell, Rogers, Telus and all the other providers unlock the FM chip for Canadians.

This has to be made law. Any support from any direction is welcome.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “A Campaign to Get Free Radio on Your Mobile Phone

  • May 11, 2016 at 11:51 am

    In the US, there’s the Prometheus Radio Project that’s been struggling to get live over the last 10 years or so. They’ve been blocked by the biggest, but they’ve made progress by way of light wave, public radio.

  • May 11, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Most latest BlackBerry devices avec the FM radio activated. (Q10, Z10 for sure, probably others).
    It’s amazing. The only drawback being that it needs a connection to a network to “start” the radio. It doesn’t need any data, no SIM required, just a simple connection to any cell phone tower. I’m guessing it’s checking roughly where in the world you are in order to populate the list of local stations.
    My issue was that I was relying on the FM radio to stay in contact with civilization as I spent a week in a very remote cottage… well guess what no cell reception to get the radio going.
    I ended up climbing on a close by mountain top to “catch” a cell tower. And I got FM radio yay!
    I was able to last roughly 5 days without recharge with about 8 hours of radio a day. Try to do that on streaming…


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