Can Congress Stop Automakers from Killing the AM R…


(TNS) — A drive by several automakers to stop installing AM radios in new cars is hitting speedbumps in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, a Bowling Green Republican who chairs a House Commerce subcommittee that handles telecommunications issues, led dozens of U.S. House of Representatives members in a letter last Monday that asked automakers for a list of the vehicle models from which they’d removed AM radio receivers and their reasons for removing them.

The letter sent to companies including BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Volkswagen, Volvo noted that AM radio stations have more than 45 million listeners each month, and said their constituents “rely heavily on it for emergency alerts and local news, information and weather.”

It described AM radio as providing invaluable information during local emergencies and natural disasters like tornados, floods and wildfires, and said it’s particularly important for rural Americans to have access to AM radio which is free to all Americans and doesn’t require a subscription or broadband connection.

“When Internet connectivity and cell pone service is limited or unavailable, these residents do not have as many options to access emergency information as those living in more densely populated areas,” the letter said. “AM radio stations are often our constituents’ ‘go to’ source for information in times of crisis. We cannot deprive them of that free, life-saving resource.”

Ohioans who signed the bipartisan letter include Republicans Max Miller of Rocky River, Troy Balderson of Zanesville, Bill Johnson of Marietta, Warren Davidson of Miami County, Mike Carey of Columbus, Mike Turner of Dayton and Brad Wenstrup of Cincinnati.

The Detroit Free Press reported last month that Ford plans to stop putting AM radio in new gas-powered and electric vehicles beginning in 2024, including the all-electric Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning pickup. A spokesman told the newspaper that a majority of U.S. AM stations are offering internet streaming through mobile apps, FM, digital and satellite radio.

“Ford will continue to offer these alternatives for customers to hear their favorite AM radio music, news and podcasts as we remove amplitude modulation — the definition of AM in this case — from most new and updated models we bring to market,” Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood told the publication.

Some makers of electric vehicles have stopped providing AM radios because the vehicles’ mechanisms interfere with reception of AM signals, but not FM signals, which use different frequencies. The letter from Latta and the other lawmakers’ letter asked if the companies had examined whether there’s technology available to address signal interference from electric vehicles to AM radio receivers.

The National Association of Broadcasters last month launched a campaign to highlight the importance of AM car radios for news, community engagement, entertainment and vital public safety information.

“Implementing cost cutting measures at the expense of our nation’s emergency communications abilities is reckless and will have dire consequences for Americans that rely on AM radio in times of crisis,” said a statement from the trade association’s president and CEO, Curtis LeGeyt.

Some conservatives have questioned whether the move is an effort to target talk radio shows broadcast on AM frequencies.

“This would be a direct hit politically on conservative talk radio in particular, which is what most people go to AM radio to listen to,” Fox News’ Sean Hannity told Fox News Digital. “So is there a political component to it? Certainly feels like it.”

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and House of Representatives members introduced legislation called the “AM for Every Vehicle Act” that would require automakers to maintain AM broadcast radio in new vehicles at no additional charge. Its cosponsors include U.S. Sen. JD Vance, a Cincinnati Republican.

“I’m proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation and to stand with every Ohioan who depends on AM radio for their news, sports, and emergency information,” said a statement from Vance. “We must ensure automakers continue to install AM receivers in their cars at no additional cost to consumers.”

The legislation would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue a rule that requires automakers to keep AM broadcast radio in their vehicles, and require any automaker that sells vehicles that lack AM radio before the effective date of the NHTSA rule to clearly disclose it to consumers.

In addition, it would order the Government Accountability Office to study whether alternative communication systems could fully replicate the reach and effectiveness of AM broadcast radio for alerting the public to emergencies.

“There is a clear public safety imperative here,” said a statement from Federal Communications Commission FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “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.”

© 2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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