A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to make it illegal for carmakers to eliminate AM radio from their cars, arguing public safety is at risk.
Why it matters: AM radio is one key way that government officials communicate with the public during natural disasters and other emergencies.
- Officials worry that if drivers don’t have access, they might miss important safety alerts.
Context: Some manufacturers are eliminating AM radio from their electric vehicles (EVs) because of interference from the electric motors that creates annoying buzzing noises and faded signals.
- They argue that car owners can still access AM radio content through digital streaming packages or smartphone apps (though such services sometimes require a subscription).
Yes, but: While AM might seem like a relic of the past, nearly 50 million people still listen to it, according to Nielsen figures provided by the National Association of Broadcasters.
The proposed legislation, to be introduced today by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and others, would require all new vehicles to include AM radio at no additional charge.
- In the case of EV models that have already eliminated AM radio (from BMW, Ford, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen and Volvo), carmakers would be required to disclose the lack of AM access to consumers.
- The law would also direct the Government Accountability Office to study whether alternative communication systems are as effective in reaching the public during emergencies.
What they’re saying: “The importance of AM radio during large-scale emergencies cannot be underestimated, and it has, without a doubt and without interruption, saved lives and kept our communities informed,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), the lead sponsor in the House.
- “When the cell phone runs out, the internet gets cut off, or the television doesn’t work because of no electricity or power to your house, you can still turn on your AM radio.”
Of note: Other sponsors include Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Representatives Tom Kean, Jr. (R-N.J.), Rob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-W.A.)
In my 70s, I virtually never listen to FM. I depend on AM radio for my news and entertainment.