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Lawmakers Say FEMA Must Address Automakers, Be a Champion for AM

Gallagher and Gottheimer describe AM radio as the "backbone of the nation’s Emergency Alert System"

Some U.S. lawmakers are continuing to advocate for the preservation of AM radio in new car models and electric vehicles. On Thursday, May 11, Reps. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, imploring her to take action and champion the senior band’s importance in emergency situations.

The lawmakers describe AM radio as the “backbone of the nation’s Emergency Alert System,” and emphasize its ability to reach areas where there is little cellular service or access to broadband internet.

“There is considerable evidence of Americans relying on radio for vital emergency information during severe weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy,” they write.

Gallagher and Gottheimer also reference an earlier letter in which seven former FEMA officials wrote to the Department of Transportation saying “should EV makers continue removing AM radios from their vehicles, this vital public safety system will no longer function as intended.”

[Related: NASBA on Loss of AM in Cars: “1,300 AM Stations Could Be Left in the Dark”]

The two conclude by asking for “more clarity on the specific threats” the removal of AM poses to the EAS, and “what FEMA is doing to ensure the EAS can continue to carry out its vital role.” They say that given the growth in sales of EVs, it is vital for FEMA to make clear the negative impacts that lacking access to AM radio will have on public safety infrastructure.

They also ask for more specific data regarding the number of National Public Warning System stations that exclusively broadcast on the AM band.

Mike Gallagher is a Republican congressman from Wisconsin. Gottheimer is the Democrat from New Jersey who has proposed making AM a mandatory safety feature in cars. He once worked at Ford and was senior counselor to then-Chairman of the FCC Julius Genachowski.

Separately, as we’ve reorted, eight state lawmakers in Michigan recently sent a letter to Ford Motor Company urging the automaker to keep AM capability in new vehicles or risk jeopardizing the safety and livelihood of millions of Ford’s customers.

Also, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters has now sent a letter to Rep. Steven Horsford, chairman of the House Congressional Black Caucus, saying that the removal of AM radio from new car models “represents a huge setback for AM radio stations serving the needs of the African American community, as AM radio is a crucial medium for delivering content that is culturally relevant and often missing from other formats.” They said removal of AM from EVs also would be a step backward in broadcasters’ efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity in media. (Read the letter.)

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