In the transition from gas- to electric-powered fleets, some auto manufacturers are considering eliminating AM radio from new vehicles over concerns their engines will interfere with how AM stations sound. This move has been made by manufacturers such as BMW, Mazda, Tesla, and Volkswagen, while major U.S. automaker Ford is eliminating AM radio from nearly all of its new vehicles – gas and electric – citing data showing less than 5% of in-car listening is from those stations.
However, this proposed transition is already facing opposition from a big-time lobby group, Capitol Hill, and beyond. Trade group the National Association of Broadcasters pointed out that over 82 million people in the U.S. listen every month to AM radio, which mostly broadcasts news, talk radio, and sports.
This move has also been opposed by reps. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican and Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, who wrote a letter last week to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell expressing concerns about the switch resulting in motorists losing a major warning platform.
The lawmakers told FEMA it is “vital” that the federal agency “make clear the negative impacts that lacking access to AM radio will have on public safety infrastructure.” FEMA’s “Emergency Alert System Best Practices Guide” states: “AM stations offer specific coverage benefits due to the characteristics of ground wave propagation.”
AM radio signals can be heard about 100 miles away during the day. However, at night, they can be heard hundreds of miles away due to changes in the atmosphere, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Seven former FEMA leaders wrote a letter in February to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg asking him to “do everything you can to ensure automakers maintain the AM radio in their dashes” out of security concerns.
Some radio hosts are also taking matters into their own hands to fight for their platform. Talk radio host John Catsimatidis, the CEO of WABC radio, teamed up with former Vice President Mike Pence to create a public service announcement to save AM radio, which he is offering to all U.S. radio stations to air.
In addition, Catsimatidis wrote in the New York Post late last month: “The automotive industry is doing a huge disservice to Americans by even considering removing AM radio from cars. They are putting the safety of Americans in peril by putting profits before people. Americans deserve better. Americans deserve AM radio.”
Some proponents of AM radio, such as Fox News host Sean Hannity, argue that the push to remove the systems appears to be targeting conservatives.
Electric cars will eliminate AM radio in what is a direct hit to conservative talk radio.
Just a "coincidence," right?https://t.co/Wju0iuMF0P
— OutKick (@Outkick) April 14, 2023
In conclusion, the move by auto manufacturers to eliminate AM radio from new vehicles has sparked significant opposition, from both Capitol Hill lawmakers and radio hosts around the country. It remains to be seen whether they will continue with their plans, but their actions have sparked serious debate about the importance of AM radio in America.