Automakers' push to remove AM radio in new cars gets pushback from Hannity to Hill
Some proponents of AM radio, such as Fox News host Sean Hannity, argue that the push to remove the systems is a move targeting conservatives.
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Video didn't kill the radio star. But auto manufacturers might, as they consider eliminating AM radio from new vehicles in their transition from gas- to electric-powered fleets.
Manufacturers such as BMW, Mazda, Tesla, and Volkswagen are taking AM radio out of new electric vehicles over concerns their engines will interfere with how AM stations sound, according to The Washington Post.
Major U.S. automaker Ford is eliminating AM radio from nearly all of its new vehicles – gas and electric – citing data showing less than 5% of in-car listening is from those stations.
The proposed transition is already facing opposition from a big-time lobby group, Capitol Hill, and beyond.
Trade group the National Association of Broadcasters said in April that over 82 million people in the U.S. listen every month to AM radio, which mostly broadcasts news, talk radio, and sports.
Reps. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, and Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, wrote a letter last week to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell expressing concerns about the switch resulting in motorists losing a major warning platform.
"AM radio is the backbone of the nation’s Emergency Alert System," the congressmen wrote, referring to the national warning system that authorities use to distribute public safety alerts such as severe weather information and AMBER alerts.
The lawmakers told FEMA it is "vital" that the federal agency "make clear the negative impacts that lacking access to AM radio will have on public safety infrastructure."
FEMA's "Emergency Alert System Best Practices Guide" states: "AM stations offer specific coverage benefits due to the characteristics of ground wave propagation."
AM radio signals can be heard about 100 miles away during the day. But at night, they can be heard hundreds of miles away due to changes in the atmosphere, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Seven former FEMA leaders wrote a letter in February to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg asking him to "do everything you can to ensure automakers maintain the AM radio in their dashes" out of security concerns.
FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington echoed their sentiments, adding rural communities also rely on AM radio for entertainment and knowledge.
"I believe that the FCC should make clear the vital importance of AM radio," he wrote.
Some radio hosts are also taking matters into their own hands to fight for their platform.
Talk radio host John Catsimatidis, the CEO of WABC radio, teamed up with former Vice President Mike Pence to create a public service announcement to save AM radio, which he is offering to all U.S. radio stations to air.
In addition, Catsimatidis wrote in the New York Post late last month: "The automotive industry is doing a huge disservice to Americans by even considering removing AM radio from cars. They are putting the safety of Americans in peril by putting profits before people. Americans deserve better. Americans deserve AM radio."
Some proponents of AM radio, such as Fox News host Sean Hannity, argue that the push to remove the systems appears to be targeting conservatives.
"I think people want more options, not less options. And this would be a direct hit politically on conservative talk radio in particular, which is what most people go to AM radio to listen to," Hannity, who hosts a TV show and an AM and FM radio show, told Fox News Digital last month. "So is there a political component to it? Certainly feels like it."
Madeleine Hubbard is an international correspondent for Just the News. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.