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Congressman Wants ‘Warning Labels’ On Cars That Don’t Have AM Radio.


The fight to keep AM radio inside all dashboards, including electric vehicles, played out in front of a Paramus, NJ Tesla dealership on Monday, as Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) announced a new battlefront. He is calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to act against automakers that exclude AM, including adopting a requirement that cars without AM have a safety warning on the car window that says “Warning: No AM Radio. Vehicle Unsafe in Certain Emergencies.” Gottheimer sees it as an interim step until a law pending in Congress becomes law.


“When customers walk into a dealership, we must ensure that potential car and truck buyers know which cars and trucks have AM radio and those that don’t – and know the inherent dangers that come with purchasing a vehicle without it,” Gottheimer said. He envisions it as part of the required information alongside the sticker price that is on the window of every vehicle. “Buying a car without AM radio is like buying a car without an emergency parking brake. You may not use it every day, but you’ll be glad you have it if your brakes ever go out,” he told reporters.


Gottheimer said his own Ford electric truck has AM and he praised automakers that have stuck with the service, proving it can be done, while brands like BMW, Mazda, Volkswagen, and Volvo have already taken AM out of their EV dashboards. He believes the long-term play is to turn the dashboard into a revenue stream, where automakers can charge subscription fees for access to content like radio.


Jordan Walton, Executive Director of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association, who joined Gottheimer outside the Tesla dealership, agreed that is another of AM’s benefits. “It's also important to remember that AM and FM radio is and always has been free to every American. With no subscription fees or data caps,” he said. There are 39 AMs in New Jersey.


In his letter to the NTSB, Gottheimer calls AM radio the “backbone” of the public warning system, ensuring that Americans get alerts during natural disasters, extreme weather conditions, chemical spills, and other emergencies. He also points out that Congress earlier approved significant funding to harden dozens of AM stations with backup power and antenna hardening. “The importance of AM radio during large-scale emergencies cannot be overstated,” the letter says.


Gottheimer helped successfully secure a $56 million investment last year for the Next Generation Warning System to improve the capabilities of public broadcasters to send vital emergency and civil defense warnings.


Bill Gaining Support In Congress


Gottheimer is the lead sponsor of the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act (H.R.3413), which would direct the Department of Transportation to issue a rule requiring that AM broadcast stations be accessible in all passenger motor vehicles manufactured in, imported into, or shipped within the U.S. The Government Accountability Office would be required to study whether alternative communication systems could fully replicate the reach and effectiveness of AM radio for alerting the public during emergencies. Support for the bill has climbed to 201 backers in the House, with another 46 supporters in the Senate. “It's on its way to becoming law,” Gottheimer predicted.


The attention that lawmakers have put on the issue has convinced some car companies to announce they have no plans to remove AM from their cars, including electric vehicles. Ford said it would reactive AM in some cars where the feature had been discontinued. That process has now begun as the company tells Inside Radio the update is rolling out now in the 2023 Mustang Mach-e and F-150 Lightning electric pickups, the only two EV models that did not have the AM capabilities.


Yet AM supporters say the fact that others have yet to act demonstrates the need for federal intervention. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is among the cosponsors of the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act, which could help proponents advance the bill. Johnson is a former talk radio host in his native Louisiana.


The Consumer Technology Association, which opposes the bill, says it would be like mandating CD or 8-track cassette players. But CTA acknowledges that the numbers seem to be on radio’s side. “Every member of Congress knows their local broadcaster. Those relationships are strong,” CTA Senior VP Tiffany Moore told the Wall Street Journal.


Gottheimer also points out that AM is more popular than many believe. He says Nielsen data shows 47 million, or 20% of the radio-listening public, tune into AM daily.

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