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NAB Spotlights AM Radio as Lifeline

It publishes a report emphasizing the band’s role in public safety

The National Association of Broadcasters released a report this week spotlighting the importance of AM radio to public safety. It used examples from three recent natural disasters to emphasize how AM disseminates trusted news and acts as the backbone of the Emergency Alert System. 

The report covers familiar ground but it aggregates data points and other information that may be of use for broadcasters and others who advocate for the value of AM.

NAB and others continue to push for congressional support of the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act, to ensure AM radio remains accessible in automobiles.

The report states that more than 80 million Americans listen to AM radio monthly, according to recent Nielsen surveys. 

The diversity of the approximately 4,400 AM radio stations in the country was highlighted; NAB said about 15 percent of those stations serve niche or minority audiences. It also reminded readers that the reliability of AM signals and reach of AM coverage are particularly useful in rural America, where cellular or broadband signals can be scarce. 

It states that on average, agricultural radio listeners tune in for at least one hour on a typical weekday. 

“AM radio’s importance to communities of color and rural areas as well as underrepresented groups through its diversity in programming makes it an indispensable medium for reaching and connecting America’s diverse communities,” the report stated.

AM radio’s role in emergencies was emphasized. EAS relies on broadcast stations to relay emergency messages, with more than 70 stations, most of them AMs, serving as Primary Entry Points that initiate the message and spread it to other communications medium across the country.

The report discussed three natural disasters where AM radio played a critical role in serving the public, including during the Maui wildfires, the Tubbs Fire in northern California and an outbreak of tornadoes in Arkansas. 

Radio helped to provide information to residents when power and cellular communications were disrupted and to deliver updates from officials and callers to correct misinformation on social media. The report lauded the work of staff members at KSRO(AM) in the Sonoma County area in California during the Tubbs Fire, and at KWYB(AM) in Wynne, Ark. during the March 2023 Arkansas tornadoes.

The report concludes by urging the House and Senate to support the legislation to require the secretary of transportation to issue a rule requiring vehicles manufactured in or imported into the U.S. to have devices installed that provide access to AM radio. 

NAB said that the bill has the support of 240 members of Congress. It listed numerous organizations that also support it including emergency management officials, communications professionals and groups representing rural, elderly and other diverse communities.

Read the NAB report.

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