The author is a retired Fletcher Heald & Hildreth attorney. Comment on this or any article. Email [email protected].
It is too bad that several automobile manufacturers have decided to dictate to the world what they can listen to and what they can’t by removing the AM broadcast band from their “interconnected” dashboards. They don’t seem to be concerned about the strong objections raised by not only the radio industry but also members of Congress.
Neal Ardman suggested recently that AM car radios may perform poorly (translation: making them perform properly costs too much) because of RF interference emitted by electric vehicles in excess of FCC limits. If that is the case, the FCC has ample authority to enforce those limits.
But there are also ways for Congress to act. One is following the model of the All-Channel Receiver Act that brought UHF tuners with adequate performance standards to all TV receivers. Another approach might be to enact legislation requiring that at least the broadcast radio component of automobile and truck dashboards be removable and replaceable by consumers at independent radio shops. That kind of requirement would be highly unacceptable to automobile manufacturers, who are moving in the direction of controlling and combining all content access in their vehicles and charging consumers for more and more of that access. They could react by removing all broadcast radio, including FM, from their vehicles — a move that hopefully would alienate more customers than manufacturers could tolerate.
The other reaction would be to continue to offer AM radio, with proper grounding and filters to make sure that AM reception functions properly.
The FCC has recently expressed increased interest in ensuring that all receivers be designed to operate in an increasingly crowded spectrum environment. Preserving quality AM reception could easily be part of the FCC’s effort. If Congress does not want to navigate the receiver thicket on its own, it could at least pass a bill clarifying the FCC’s authority to act.
– Peter Tannenwald
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