Lawmakers Want AM Radio Available in U.S. Autos

According to statistics compiled by the National Association of Broadcasters and Nielsen data, some 80 million people in the U.S. listen to AM radio every month.

Lawmakers want to make sure they can continue listening to AM radio in their cars.

A bipartisan group in Congress on Wednesday introduced the “AM for Every Vehicle Act.” The Associated Press reported that the bill calls on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require automakers to keep AM radio in new cars at no additional cost.

The legislation would also require automakers selling cars manufactured before the proposed regulation takes effect to let buyers know if the vehicles don’t come with AM radios, the AP reported.

Supporters of preserving AM radio in cars cite public safety concerns. The bill’s sponsors note AM radio’s role in transmitting vital information during emergencies, such as communication during natural disasters, especially to people in rural areas.

“Carmakers shouldn’t tune out AM radio in new vehicles or put it behind a costly digital paywall,” Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement, according to the AP. He added that the bill aims to “ensure that this resilient and popular communication tool does not become a relic of the past.”

The proposed legislation comes as more automakers are dropping broadcast AM radio from their newer models. According to Markey’s office, eight out of 20 major car companies — including Tesla, BMW and Ford — have removed it from their electric vehicles.

Carmarkers cite interference from electric motors that can cause static and noise on AM transmissions. Some have suggested that internet radio or other communication tools could replace AM radio. But Markey and others have pushed back — pointing to situations where drivers might not have internet access.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a U.S. group that represents major automakers, criticized the proposed legislation, calling the AM radio mandate unnecessary, according to the AP report.

According to the AAI, FEMA’s Integrated Public Alerts and Warning System, which can distribute safety warnings across AM, FM, internet-based and satellite radios — as well as over cellular networks. “This is simply a bill to prop up and give preference to a particular technology that’s now competing with other communications options and adapting to changing listenership,” the alliance said, according to the AP.