Inside Radio–Following pressure from lawmakers and an uproar from the radio industry, Ford Motor Company said today that it will keep AM radio in its new vehicles.
Opposition to the removal of AM came from many quarters: Radio station owners feared that the loss of AM in cars would devastate their business, since at least half of all AM listening takes place on the road. Some Republicans accused the auto industry of taking aim against conservatives, since political talk is one of the largest formats among AM stations. And some Democrats joined the battle to retain AM in cars because the nation’s emergency alert system is built around AM stations, which generally have much stronger signals than FM radio can support.
The legislation cited the importance of AM radio during large-scale emergencies and its long history of keeping communities informed during natural disasters and other life-threatening emergencies.
The reversal comes after bipartisan legislation was introduced last week that would require carmakers to maintain AM broadcast radio in new vehicles at no additional charge. The proposed AM for Every Vehicle Act would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue a rule that requires automakers to maintain AM broadcast radio in their vehicles without a separate or additional payment, fee, or surcharge. The Government Accountability Office would also be required to study whether alternative communication systems could fully replicate the reach and effectiveness of AM broadcast radio for alerting the public to emergencies. That could open a door to allowing car companies to drop AM longer-term.
“After speaking with policy leaders about the importance of AM broadcast radio as a part of the emergency alert system, we’ve decided to include it on all 2024 @Ford & @LincolnMotorCo vehicles,” Ford CEO Jim Farley wrote in social media postings Tuesday. “For any owners of Ford EVs without AM broadcast capability, we’ll offer a software update.” Ford’s electric vehicles will get an online software update to put AM back into the vehicles. Hall told the AP that the automaker said it will keep AM radio in future vehicles as it looks at “innovative ways to deliver emergency alerts.”
Ford’s announcement elicited an immediate endorsement from Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and co-author of the AM for Every Vehicle Act. “I applaud Ford for tuning into the concerns of millions of listeners, thousands of broadcasters and countless emergency management officials who have called for automakers to keep AM radio in their vehicles,” Markey said in a statement. “AM radio is more than just an essential safety feature—it’s a free, accessible source for anyone to listen to music, news, sports, and entertainment. Innovation in the automotive industry should mean more features, not fewer, for consumers. Ford’s reversal reflects an overdue realization about the importance of AM radio, but too many automakers are still going the wrong direction. Congress must pass my AM for Every Vehicle Act to maintain access to AM radio for years to come.”
The National Association of Broadcasters, which lobbied mightily for Congress to convince automakers to keep AM radio in their dashboards, also applauded Ford’s decision. “NAB commends Ford for committing to keep AM radio in their vehicles, which will keep Americans safe and informed, particularly in times of emergency. With tens of millions of listeners, AM radio continues to serve as a vital lifeline to the public and a critical source of community news and exchange of diverse ideas,” NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt said in a statement. “In light of Ford’s announcement, NAB urges other automakers who have removed AM radio from their vehicles to follow Ford’s lead and restore this technology in the interest of listeners and public safety,” LeGeyt added.
LeGeyt went on to thank lawmakers who support the proposed legislation. “Their bipartisan voices are helping to shine a light on the need to keep this critical service. Broadcasters will continue to support this major legislation to ensure consumer access to AM radio in all vehicles,” LeGeyt said.