Lobbyists Give Static to Government About AM Radio

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

lobbyists whine to government about am radio

Readers may recall a recent news post in which we mentioned Jim Farley took to Twitter and announced that Ford was heeding requests from policy leaders and rural Americans, electing not to yank AM radio from Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Going a step further, he also said any Ford EVs not currently able to pick up Amplitude Modulation stations would be getting a software update to give them the capability.

Despite this common sense development, a cadre of automaker lobbyists made their way to Washington yesterday to bleat at Congress and stomp their feet. Their message was the opposite of Farley’s, saying lawmakers shouldn’t consider requiring OEMs to include AM radio in their vehicles.

According to The Detroit News, the lobbying arm of the American car industry tried to make a case that plenty of readily available technology exists to take the place of AM radio. Their argument is that warning systems transmit safety messages to members of the general public through a variety of broadcast means, of which many – like FM and satellite – are part and parcel of infotainment systems in modern automobiles, and mandates to retain AM could stifle future innovation.

Congress is skeptical of that reasoning and this author, for once, agrees. Leaving AM radio capability tucked in the corner of an infotainment system hurts no one and surely takes up very little digital real estate. With people like Farley suggesting it is possible to switch on the ability to receive AM radio by way of a simple over-the-air update, leaving the old-school tech in future cars seems like a no-brainer.

These alerts are far and away from the Cold War era in which our nation’s cars were required to have CONELRAD nuclear attack frequencies noted on the face of their in-dash radios with little triangle/circle symbols. Back then, 640 and 1240 on the AM dial were intended to be the go-to frequencies in the event Ruskie bombers started to rain death and destruction upon our heads. That requirement lasted from 1953 – 1964, with various permutations of the Emergency Broadcast System taking its place. 

These days, the Emergency Alert System is designed as a national tool to permit officials the opportunity to broadcast information to the public via a host of mediums, including AM radio. While the EAS can also use FM, satellite, and other means with which to alert the public of impending doom, more than a few Americans live in spots of the country where signals are weak and reception is poor. AM radio, while affected by interference, can often be picked up at a much further distance than other broadcast methods. It is for this reason that lawmakers are considering legislating car companies to include AM radio in their vehicles.

[Image: Proxima Studio/Shutterstock]

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4 of 46 comments
  • Fred Fred on Jun 08, 2023

    Remember when radios were an option? Do you know you can use your phone to listen to any radio station in the world? This is just a whole waste of time.

    • See 1 previous
    • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jun 08, 2023

      @Jeff S

      Yep, "R&H" (for radio and heater) used to be a common notation in new and used car ads.

  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jun 08, 2023

    If it is all about emergency broadcasts put a d@mn shortwave in the car. You can send those all over the planet. Then I can listen to "The Lincolnshire Poacher" or "The Buzzer" on my commute home

  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
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