Senate will soon vote on whether to require AM radio in new cars

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AM radio in automobiles may live to broadcast another day—or indefinitely.

Last December, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to 20 auto manufacturers asking the companies whether they plan to, or already have, discontinued access to free broadcast AM radio in their vehicles, including any battery-powered models. Of the 20 companies, eight—BMW, Ford, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo—said yes. 

Ten automakers—Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Lucid, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Stellantis, Subaru, and Toyota — still maintained access to broadcast AM radio in their vehicles, they said. Two additional automakers, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors, refused to provide individual responses and instead relied on a message from the industry trade group, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which claims that AM radio is a technology that has lost its potency; while AM radio is “the backbone” of the Emergency Alert System according to the National Association of Broadcasters, the AAI claims that it is no longer relevant.

The results of the inquiry prompted Markey and his colleague across the aisle, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to introduce legislation in May of 2023 called the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act. The Act would require that car manufacturers include AM radio in every new vehicle, including electric ones, at no charge.

We mention electric vehicles because manufacturers say that the electric powertrain interferes with the AM signal and that circumventing that interference is difficult. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation has pushed back, saying there are other ways for the public to receive emergency warnings besides the AM band.

“Whether or not AM radio is physically installed in vehicles in the future has no bearing on the multiple methods of delivering emergency communications alerts to the public,” said AAI CEO John Bozzella. “Mandating audio features in a vehicle isn’t necessary. Congress hasn’t ever gone this route, especially in a competitive environment with so many choices, many of them free.”

Ford, for one, has backtracked on its decision to drop AM.

Last week, Markey and Cruz “celebrated the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s vote to advance the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act.” They say the Act should go to the full Senate floor for a vote “sometime this year,” following the August recess.

“Today’s vote to advance the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act sends a clear signal to carmakers,” said Senator Markey. “AM radio is an essential communication tool during emergencies, and for decades has been a source of news, entertainment, sports, and music for tens of millions of drivers. I thank Senator Cruz for his partnership as we work to cut through the noise and uphold access to AM radio as we plug into our clean-energy, all-electric future.”

The radio in a 1986 Ford Mustang GT Cameron Neveu

“AM radio serves a critical function during emergencies,” said Senator Cruz. “It reliably gets important information to the public, which is why several former FEMA administrators and representatives of the emergency response community have called for AM radio to remain in vehicles. AM radio is also vital to free expression and viewpoint diversity. With low barriers to entry, it allows Americans, especially conservatives, to communicate their points of view and help free speech flourish.”

According to DGR News, the House version of the bill is pending, with bipartisan support that includes 70 Republican and 68 Democrat cosponsors of the bill. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) said that of the 4000 AM stations in the country, 1500 broadcast largely to farmers and ranchers with agricultural news. “Minnesotans look to AM radio for everything from news and weather updates to music and sports scores. It’s critical to protect AM radio for our communities, but right now, it’s on the chopping block,” said Klobuchar. “That’s why I’ve been working to pass the AM for Every Vehicle Act, and now this legislation is one step closer to becoming law,” she said in a statement. 

Talk show host Sean Hannity told the Los Angeles Times that most of his 13 million listeners tune in on AM. He’s ready to draw attention to any and all auto companies that remove the band: “If they’re being obstinate about this, I’m just gonna name the names and let people know that they’re silencing conservative voices here,” Hannity said. “I don’t think they’ve put a lot of thought into it.”




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    AM radio can travel over mountains. I do not get a lot of TV stations (FM) because I live behind a mountain.
    We need AM.
    Thank you Sen. for thinking of us, who are not in large cities.

    In rural areas the only form of airwave communication is AM radio. Many small towns have 1 or 2 low wattage radio stations that broadcast a wide variety format from local news, local events and a variety of different music venues. I have traveled thru many small towns across the west and searched out these local stations to get an idea of the small town flavor of the town I’m visiting or just passing thru. Keep the AM radio. The cost savings is miniscule in the grand scheme of things.

    With recent threats of Nuclear Weapons being utilized due to Ukrainian/Russia conflict and US involvement, I’m thinking the Government is getting a bit nervous and see a need again for those CD triangles to be put back on the AM dial.

    I live in a hurricane/storm prone area. While I’m 50 miles inland, we still get the tail of many and power outages are not uncommon. In those times, FM radio is non existent but AM radio is still there. I can get weather forecasts, bulletins on where you can find stores open and where they have ice, road closure, flooded areas, the important things to know after a major storm. If you live where you never have a major problem, I guess it doesn’t matter, but to me it does. I’ve contacted my senators with my concerns and I”m glad the car I just bought has AM radio.

    I agree wholeheartedly, on several fronts. living in Fl we experienced the weak side of hurricane Charlie, night before cable went out, I have a cable phone but do noe employ it. FM died off, AM was still useable., no cell or text. Got updates from AM and from my family in NY on my copper phone line. Lesson AM Is necessity, the phone line you rely on cannot be cable either. Back to AM we’ve gotten plenty of info from local AM out west of the Missippii. CD players are better than relying on iTunes my many ripped disc library always wipe out every few months. Apple is of no help, RE rip 100+ discs is a joke

    FM is line of sight. The many towers needed to cover sparsely populated areas of the west make no economic sense. AM reflects off the ionosphere, so can be heard thousands of miles from the transmitter. During a catastrophic event – EMP, massive storm, widespread power outage, whatever, emergency information can be broadcast from AM stations to citizens who still have power in their car batteries, even if their homes, phones and internet are dark.

    Politicians should stay out of the issue if there is one, and let the manufacterers do what they want. And
    emergency notice should be posted on everybody’s communications, including smartphones, computers
    and so on since everyone is addicted to screens.

    I have an original restored 1954 Chevy truck with an original 6 volt radio. They only came with AM.

    Back in the 70s I worked as an installer at an after market car stereo place and even back then, in 95% of the cars I worked on, I was removing the factory AM radios. In the 80s the only reason I tuned in to AM was to listen to Howard Stern.

    “Today’s vote to advance the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act sends a clear signal to carmakers,”: that signal being that lawmakers, believing they’ve solved all the more pressing issues, have worked their way down to what radio we need. I’ve been listening to radio pretty steadily, in a wide variety of environments for over a half a century and have NEVER, not even once, gotten an emergency message via AM.

    AM radio had pretty much dried up as a commercial venture 30 (or more) years ago. It was limited in fidelity and prone to interference – try to listen during a lightning storm or drive past some high-tension power lines and you will see what I mean. FM/satellite/streaming services are the norm now.
    With no commercial value, AM licenses became very cheap and fringe groups started acquiring them. You now hear mostly foreign language and crackpot talk programming. There are some mainstream news/sports broadcasts on AM, but that content is usually available elsewhere.
    When AM ruled the airwaves, they were optional in cars and a significant number of vehicles simply did not have a radio at all.
    I think legislation like this is political catering to those fringe users. I don’t think they are driving Teslas, so the AM radio is not missed.

    Anyone saying how it’d be “fine” to ditch AM radio has probably never been through a tornado or other serious event that took out electricity, cell towers, and local FM stations. In those situations it isn’t “fine” to do without and you’d find yourself searching for an old AM radio so you could get an idea as to who might know your situation and who might be coming to help. Only HAM would be more useful at those points, which they also talked about getting rid of.

    As long as daily baseball games can only be accessed on AM radio, they better not do away with it as standard equipment.

    Some of you have short memories. On the day the twin towers were hit, the cell phones in this country were useless. I had to use a land line to get a message out to my family and co workers. Cell phones may be great for every day, but in a real emergency, LOW TECH IS KING.

    I listen to AM radio every morning. I get local news, weather and sports. I don’t need music all the time.

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