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Arkansas radio broadcasters got a news bulletin they appreciated last month when Ford Motor Co. pulled a U-turn on plans to stop putting AM radios in its new cars, trucks and SUVs.
CEO Jim Farley said the turnaround came after the company listened to government leaders who were worried that public safety would be compromised if drivers and passengers couldn’t get AM radio reports on weather, natural disasters and national security alerts.
“The decision by Ford and likely other manufacturers to keep AM radio was a significant advocacy win,” said Luke Story, president and CEO of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association. “The ABA, the approximately 4,700 AM radio stations across the U.S. and the 138 AM radio stations in Arkansas are all pleased” that all 2024 Ford and Lincoln vehicles will keep AM capability.
“But there’s more work to be done,” Story told Whispers, adding that including AM in electric vehicles “is neither costly nor technically complex to achieve.”
Ford’s decision came after a bipartisan group in Congress introduced a bill to have the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration require AM in all new vehicles at no additional cost.
That bill, the AM for Every Vehicle Act, was driven by public safety concerns and a recognition of AM’s historic role in broadcasting vital information during emergencies, particularly in rural areas.
Story said Ford’s decision reflect’s AM’s unique ability to reach listeners “across urban and rural areas regardless of internet access” and without paid subscriptions. “AM radio plays a vital role in serving minority, non-English-speaking and other underrepresented communities with free, in-language” programming.”
AM is also vital to farming communities, giving weather and crop reports, but safety is the bottom line, Story said.
“AM radio serves as the backbone of the Emergency Alert System, which warns the public of pending danger, and is a critical source of information” in emergencies. “When the power goes out and the internet goes down, radio remains the most resilient form of communication, especially in vehicles during power outages,” Story concluded. “There is no better proof of this than this March’s tornadoes. Many Arkansans were dependent on radio to receive information.”