There is some good news for AM for a change today. Bills have been introduced in both houses that would protect the presence of free AM radio in cars. The bills are being pushed by prominent members of both political parties and have backing from the chairwoman of the FCC.
The “AM for Every Vehicle Act” would direct federal regulators to require automakers to maintain AM broadcast radio in their new vehicles at no additional charge. The National Association of Broadcasters welcomed the move, which is also backed by the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.
Senators Ed Markey, a Democrat, and Ted Cruz, a Republican, are the headliners, but the sponsors also include Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Deb Fischer, Ben Ray Luján and J.D. Vance, as well as Reps. Josh Gottheimer, Bruce Westerman, Tom Kean Jr., Rob Menendez and Maria Gluesenkamp Perez.
The act would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue a rule requiring automakers to maintain AM broadcast radio in their vehicles without a separate or additional payment, fee or surcharge. It says AM should be clearly visible on the vehicle’s dashboard; and until the new standard would take effect, cars lacking AM radio receivers would have to be labeled as such for buyers.
The bill also would direct the Government Accountability Office to study whether alternative communication systems could fully replicate the reach and effectiveness of AM broadcast radio for alerting the public to emergencies.
The announcement was accompanied by a series of statements from the supporters.
Sen. Markey said that free AM broadcast radio “has been an essential tool in emergencies, a crucial part of our diverse media ecosystem, and an irreplaceable source for news, weather, sports and entertainment for tens of millions of listeners. Carmakers shouldn’t tune out AM radio in new vehicles or put it behind a costly digital paywall.”
Sen. Cruz called AM radio “a critical bulwark for democracy, providing a platform for alternative viewpoints and the ability for elected officials to share our efforts with our constituents.” He said Congress should act swiftly to pass this bill.
Rep. Gottheimer, who was one of the first federal lawmakers to speak up about this issue after Markey, said, “I would think that if Elon Musk has enough money to buy Twitter and send rockets to space, he can afford to include AM radio in his Teslas. Instead, Elon Musk and Tesla and other car manufacturers are putting public safety and emergency response at risk.”
Supportive statements were also given by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrate, who called this issue “a clear public safety imperative,” and Commissioner Nathan Simington, a Republican who was talking about protecting AM even before Markey’s letter and who said “I invite my colleagues on the commission and across the whole of government to raise their voices in support of this vital mission.”
As Radio World readers know well by now, the future of AM has been under scrutiny since Markey wrote to carmakers about the issue and learned that at least eight of them have removed AM from electric vehicles. The comments he received from the numerous car companies about radio varied wildly. Then Ford subsequently said it planned to remove AM from most of its cars of all types.