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Letter: Where Is Digital Radio in the AM Debate?

In an increasingly digital world, is it worth keeping AM radio in cars?

In this letter to the editor, the author comments on the ongoing debate of whether to mandate that automakers keep AM radio as a free service in electric vehicles and new car models as a whole. Comment on this or any article. Email [email protected].

Hello Elle Kehres,

This message aims to draw your attention to this short article published on the SWLing Post website “Why AM radio in EVs could cost billions.”

Honestly, is it worth keeping AM radio in cars in the United States when digital radio is gradually becoming the standard everywhere (or almost) in the world?

I understand the technical problems this poses for electric cars, but I don’t really understand Americans’ attachment to AM radio! Among the explanations encountered are:

  • AM radio introduced in the 1920s is an integral part of American culture;
  • Some AM stations offer unique programming formats, such as broadcasting sports games, talk shows or music from the 1950s-1960s that appeal to a loyal audience; and
  • AM signals cover large areas which is appreciated in areas where FM reception is limited.

This last reason is, from my point of view, the most interesting, especially if we also take into account the role of radio in emergency situations.

Recently, Radio World published an article which states that, according to Xperi, HD Radio is in 58% of new cars in North America.

In terms of digital radio, Europe and Australia, among others, have opted for DAB+; new cars sold in the European Union must be equipped to receive DAB+ programs.

For its part, India has opted for DRM technology and broadcasts in simulcast in several large cities, including New Delhi (810 kHz DRM and 819 kHz AM) and Mumbai (783 kHz DRM and 792 kHz AM). News Cars sold in India are equipped to receive DRM programs.

From my point of view as a radio listener (mainly SWL), the DRM technology used in AM (DRM30) but also in FM (DRM+) seems preferable to me, because it allows much larger areas to be covered than DAB+ transmitters — which can be very useful in the event of a major natural disaster if the DAB+ (and 4G/5GF) transmitters in the affected areas are out of service.

I suggest that Radio World calls on independent experts to explain the technological and economic issues which influence the social and security issues on the future of radio. I would read all these articles with great interest.


Paul Jamet, Radio Club du Perche

[Read more stories about the future of AM radio in cars]