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‘AM Is Critical For Rural Communities’ Says Senator As Support Grows For AM Proposal.

Most members of Congress are spending their August recess back in their districts and that could prove to be advantageous for radio as they are reminded of the role local radio plays, especially AM stations. Before lawmakers left town, a Senate committee advanced a bill that would help ensure AM stays in vehicle dashboards. Efforts are also underway in the House.

“I was at Farmfest in Redwood County earlier this month, and the people I talked to agreed: AM radio is critical for rural communities,” Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) says. “AM radio is also critical for public safety – across Minnesota we see just how vital this system is,” she writes in an op-ed in the Detroit Lakes Tribune.

Klobuchar is one of the co-sponsors of the proposed AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act (S. 1669). It would require carmakers to maintain AM broadcast radio in new vehicles at no additional charge. For car models that have already dropped the feature, until it can be brought back, the proposal would mandate a warning label alerting buyers what is missing to be slapped on the window at the dealer showroom.

Faced with pressure from Washington and an uproar from the radio industry over plans to remove AM radio from its cars and trucks, Ford Motor Company reversed course in May and said that it would keep AM radio in its new vehicles. Other brands, including General Motors, BMW, Mazda, Rivian, Volkswagen, and Volvo have also shown some commitment to AM. But other brands are sticking with plans to focus on FM and streaming and digital capabilities in their dashboards, especially electric vehicle models.

Klobuchar says the car industry is showing it is out of touch with what consumers want.

“Auto executives have threatened to pull AM radio out of newer models of some of their vehicles. Maybe from their headquarters, it doesn’t seem like people care about AM radio anymore, but I bet if they took a drive through rural Minnesota, they would take a different view,” she writes.

Klobuchar points out that the bill has secured support from conservatives like Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to progressive Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), with the National Association of Farm Broadcasters and several members of the Federal Communications Commission also speaking out in favor of the AM requirement. “We shouldn’t have to sacrifice safety, news, and a way of life simply because some car manufacturers want to make more profits. Let’s get this passed,” she writes in the op-ed.

The Senate Commerce Committee advanced the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act bill in a late July vote, and it now awaits a vote in the full Senate.

No action has been taken on the House version (H.R.3413) so far, but even during the August recess support has grown. So far this month a half dozen lawmakers from both sides of the aisle – including Reps. Mike Johnson (R-LA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Ron Estes (R-KS), Mark Alford (R-MO), Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Troy Nehls (R-TX) – have joined as cosponsors, bringing the total number of House supporters to 147. During a House hearing on the bill in June, there was strong support for keeping AM radio in vehicles, although a few lawmakers expressed some concerns about putting a mandate on carmakers.

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