Congress Pushes Back Against AM Radio's Decline

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

The elderly folks in Congress don’t often understand new technology, but they perk right up when somebody tries to take away something they are familiar with. That’s the scene playing out in Washington right now, as lawmakers want to pump the brakes on automakers cutting AM radio from new cars.

We poke fun at Congress, but to be fair, AM radio plays a vital role in disseminating safety alerts and other information across large geographic areas. Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts and others want to prevent the move as a public safety measure, but automakers aren’t entirely on board.

Industry trade groups argue that mandating features is unnecessary, stating that the safety messages can be delivered across FM, internet, and satellite radio instead. Even so, the average age of cars on American roadways is climbing, so there are likely thousands of vehicles that don’t have the newer technology. 

Some point at electric vehicles and the potential interference with AM tech as a good reason to get rid of the feature, and that may be a valid point, but many people rely on AM to get news, weather, and traffic information. If it is truly possible to broadcast the same info across FM and satellite radio, then there may be no legitimate reason to hang onto AM, but Congress isn’t letting it go without a fight.

[Image: Dubassy via Shutterstock]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by subscribing to our newsletter.

Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

More by Chris Teague

Join the conversation
6 of 65 comments
  • Pig_Iron Pig_Iron on May 19, 2023

    ASTC 3.0 AM Radio demonstrated great potential at CES. It could be a great renaissance. 🙂

  • THX1136 THX1136 on May 19, 2023

    Someone may have already mentioned this, but the EAS (Emergency Alert System) is in place for both AM and FM. It's governed by the FCC (if that 's the proper terminology). Using the safety alert/Amber alerts as a reason to keep AM isn't a strong argument. There are things only on AM, but those could be moved to other avenues for broadcast. My guess is the industry still gets a large enough portion of their income from AM and they don't want that income reduced by removing one of it's most numerous receivers - car radio. I listen to AM in my car more than FM. If I want music I listen to my MP3 player through my cars system.

    • See 1 previous
    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on May 25, 2023

      XM had traffic channels, but recently dropped them.

  • Dartdude Dartdude on May 19, 2023

    AM radio are where the conservative talk radio is. They just want shut down more opinions. If it had all black stations on AM they wouldn't be deleting AM

  • THX1136 THX1136 on May 19, 2023

    Well said, Joe!