Many broadcasters, including all of us at the Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network, made their start in AM radio. Also, with many of our local Iowa affiliates being on the AM dial, we have a vested interest in the debate that has come to the forefront of the industry in the past few months.
AUDIO: Profit Matters for 5-19-2023
A few automakers, including those who are manufacturing electric vehicles, are starting to remove AM radio receivers from cars. Some companies are trying to say that the AM band is interfering with the operation of the EVs. However, in related news, many of those same car manufacturers are introducing more subscription-based streaming capabilities in their vehicles.
Many in the radio industry are concerned that if these automakers are allowed to remove free AM radio, FM may be right behind. Some in the radio industry are claiming that these interference claims and the increase of subscription-based radio is more than just a coincidence. Now these concerns have come to the halls of Congress. While the NAFB visited Capitol Hill for its annual Washington Watch, we talked to Congressional representatives and the FCC about the situation.
Earlier this week, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the AM for Every Vehicle Act. This bill would give the NTSB the authority to require automakers to include AM radio capabilities in all new cars. Senator Markey talks about his bill.
Not only has this been about limiting the choice for drivers, but there are more reports that these new receivers are not only blocking the AM band in the cars in which they are being placed, but they are blocking the signals in cars in their vicinity as well. Wisconsin Republican Representative Tom Tiffany talks about this.
Not only do these new receivers block a driver’s access to the local news, weather, and sports they have come to depend on at any time, but they are also interfering with a time-tested method for sharing information during an emergency. FEMA Administrator Erick Hooks was questioned about the situation in a House Transportation Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.
The Consumer Electronics Society (CES) published a response saying that a requirement to include AM radio would be a burden to automakers and compared the legislation to Congress mandating 8-track players in all new cars. This is the same CES that was singing the praises of AM radio during the emergency of California wildfires in 2017.
Some in the radio industry are saying that a response that brings up a medium for playing music versus having to pay to play your favorite music, shows how out of touch the response really is, and that this is about making consumers pay for every little perk in a car, rather than an advance in technology. When automakers moved from cassette decks in radios to CD players, those CD players weren’t stopping people around them from playing their cassettes, like the AM blocking receivers are now doing on the road.
Radio industry insiders are appreciative of the efforts being made in Congress but are also asking the FCC be allowed to mandate the technological minimum threshold for AM receivers to prevent the automakers from putting in far inferior technology in the effort to scrape by, by doing the bare minimum.