(The Center Square) – New legislation that would require AM radio capability in every new vehicle is gaining momentum.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation discussed the “AM For Every Vehicle Act” in an executive session and passed it out of committee this week, putting it one step closer to a potential vote.
“Minnesotans look to AM radio for everything from news and weather updates to music and sports scores,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said. “It’s critical to protect AM radio for our communities, but right now, it’s on the chopping block.”
Proponents argue AM radio is crucial for weather and emergency alerts in times of crisis and is more resilient after infrastructure damage because fewer towers are needed.
The bill, which has nearly 30 cosponsors in the Senate and almost 140 in the House, would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create a new rule requiring car manufacturers to put AM radios in vehicles without charging an extra fee for that capability.
“Each day, millions of Americans turn to AM radio to stay up to date on life in their community, engage on the issues they care about, or to be simply entertained during rush hour,” said U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “AM radio is a critical bulwark for democracy, providing a platform for alternative viewpoints and the ability for elected officials to share our efforts with our constituents.”
Electric vehicle manufacturers have raised concerns about the proposal, saying the drivetrain in electric vehicles creates frequencies that interfere with the radio waves.
As a result, AM radio has been phased out in electric vehicles by several automakers.
AM radio can be streamed through apps on a phone, but that requires internet access which could be limited in a crisis.
As part of the bill, the Government Accountability Office would also commence a study on whether AM radio, which uses waves that travel much further than FM waves, actually is better for informing the public in emergency situations than FM radio.
The bill has backing from industry experts, including Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, the National Association of Broadcasters, and National Association of Farm Broadcasters Nathan Simington.
“There is a clear public safety imperative here,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “Having AM radio available in our cars means we always have access to emergency alerts and key warnings while we are out on the road. Updating transportation should not mean sacrificing access to what can be life-saving information.”