From the big booming AMs that cover wide stretches of rural America to the daytime-only AMs that dedicate themselves to agribusiness news, there may be no group of station operators impacted more by the auto industry’s shift away from AM than farm broadcasters. Now the National Association of Farm Broadcasters is stepping into the conversation to help convince some automakers to hit reverse on their decision to drop AM, particularly in electric vehicles.
NAFB has begun to work with the National Alliance of State Broadcast Associations to help devise a strategy for how its members could be most effective. That includes promoting a survey of broadcasters that will help craft the message the industry would like to send to automakers.
“This is an issue of concern for our members across the country serving audiences in areas where data – and in some cases, even basic cell phone signals – are still limited or unavailable,” NAFB Executive Director Tom Brand says. He tells Inside Radio that the NAFB Board of Directors discussed what is happening with AM at its February board meeting and the topic is once again on the agenda for its April board meeting. Brand says they will share any information they have gathered from members at the trade group’s annual Washington Watch meeting next week.
In a four-wave survey of farmers conducted in 2021 and 2022 by Aimpoint Research for the NAFB, the role of broadcast radio remained clear. It found as much as two-thirds of farmers reported listening to AM stations for information about their business, such as commodity market updates, weather, and new product information. The data shows AM outperformed FM when it came to providing information to the operator of rural America’s most critical economic segment. It also showed that radio overall far outpaced the role of ag television or farm-focused print publications.
Radio is especially important this time of year. NAFB says their survey found that radio listenership goes up during the spring and summer when three out of four farmers tune in five or more days per week.
The NAFB involvement in the AM dashboard effort will dovetail nicely with efforts by the National Association of Broadcasters, which has launched a new “Depend on AM Radio” campaign highlighting the importance of AM in the car for news, entertainment, and public safety information.
Yet efforts to take on the auto industry have moved beyond Washington in recent weeks as the heads of 10 state broadcasting associations have formed a Dashboard Subcommittee within the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA) to slow or stop the removal of AM radio from the dashboard. As Inside Radio reported Monday, the two-week old group is working on multiple fronts including fact finding, education and advocacy. Jordan Walton, head of the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association and a member of the Dashboard Subcommittee, said they believe many of the executives making the auto dashboard decisions are unaware of how important AM radio is in regions like the Midwest from their vantage points in big cities or overseas.
In a series of letters to Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), eight automakers say they have pulled AM radio out of the dashboard for some of their models, mostly electric vehicles, due to a combination of technical hurdles, a belief that AM content can be accessed through streaming, and their conclusion that whatever content AM once had a lock on can now be found elsewhere. The list includes BMW, Ford, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo. The responses from the biggest U.S. auto seller Ford was, however, followed-up with a pledge to keep AM in its commercial vehicles in the near-term.