You Probably Don’t Listen To AM Radio, But Congress Thinks You Should

While once AM Radio was a broadcast powerhouse that garnered huge number of listeners, today it’s a failing bastion dedicated to sports and talk radio. Even FM, which captured most of AM’s audience, is giving way to streaming, and that has caused auto manufacturers to reconsider the viability of AM Radio in their vehicles.

AM Radio going away soon?

In fact, BMW, Ford, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo no longer include AM radios in their cars. For electric cars, some of that has to do with the fact that an EVs cause a lot of electromagnetic interference that interferes with the audio, but the fact that fewer and fewer people now actually tune into the AM band probably carries even more weight.

This was brought home by the recent test of the nationwide emergency alert system conducted by FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission. It turns out that 95 percent of US adults heard the test, but only 1 percent via AM radio. 92 percent received the alert pushed to their smartphone.

Congress Steps In

The emergency alert system is the very reason that the “AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act” is being supported by 60 Senators and 256 House members. That means that its passage seems assured and automakers will again have to include AM radios in their cars at no additional cost. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of pushback not only from the automakers, but also from the Consumer Technology Association, who cite the FEMA and FCC test as the best reason why the Bill shouldn’t pass. People just don’t listen to AM anymore.

Of course, the National Association of Broadcasters and its lobbyists are behind the Bill, and they’re so powerful that for years they’ve kept artists from earning royalties from radio airplay. Still, the disinterest in AM radio stations in a recent auction shows what the business community thinks of them. There would have been a huge bidding war for them 20 years ago, but this time none of the AM stations received a bid!

Today’s music is consumed everywhere but AM Radio, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come in handy during an emergency. Congress thinks so, even though the public does not.

[Photo by Stephen Andrews on Unsplash]
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