NASBA Survey Shows What Americans Would Lose Without AM Radio In Vehicles.
As Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Mazda, Volvo, Tesla and other automakers plan to eliminate AM radio in certain vehicles, AM radio listeners to more than 4,000 stations risk losing access to breaking news, weather alerts, farm reports, favorite music, and informative talk programs. Even with the FCC’s AM Modernization efforts that have added FM translators for many AMs, many stations do not have an FM counterpart and do not stream their community-focused signals over the internet. These are among the findings from an April survey of more than 1,000 AM radio stations from all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Fielded by the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA), the survey was conducted in response to the growing trend of automakers removing AM receivers from electric vehicles. The issue isn’t confined to just EVs. Ford has said it will remove AM from “most new and updated models.”
Level Of Concern
How concerned are AM broadcasters? Eight in ten survey respondents put their level of concern at 10 out of 10 when it comes to AM being eliminated in the car.
“The findings show what we expected – AM radio across America is a diverse mix of music and talk and a vital link for millions of listeners,” said Dewey Bruce, President of NASBA and the Montana Broadcasters Association.
The goal of the AM station survey was three-fold, Bruce explains. "First, we wanted to confirm AM radio’s diverse landscape of formats, languages, and ownership. Second, we wanted to quantify AM radio’s crucial part in the nation’s Emergency Alert System. And third, we wanted feedback that will guide our state association response going forward.”
While the common perception is that only talk radio thrives on AM, Bruce says the survey found that 40% of respondents air music formats that range from classic country and oldies to Spanish regional Mexican and inspirational gospel.
In response to a request from Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) to the heads of 20 major car brands to detail their plans for AM radio in their vehicles, several automakers suggested that even with AM radio excised from the dash, drivers would still be able to access AM radio programming through streaming audio or FM translators. The survey found that’s not entirely true. While upwards of 70% of responding stations can be found on FM translators, hundreds of stations are without a home on FM. Extrapolating that percentage to the 4,475 licensed AM stations in the U.S., NASBA says 1,300 AM stations could be left in the dark.
And of the roughly 725 stations that indicated they did have an FM translator, less than 20% have an FM signal coverage area that is equal to or greater than its AM counterpart.
Says NASBA, “Removing AM radio from automobiles would result in giant swaths of the United States at risk of not receiving critical emergency communications from federal, state, or local governments.”
Low Streaming Penetration, High EAS Coverage
Moreover, the survey found that more than half of AM stations do not currently have a standalone mobile app and 40% are not currently found on radio aggregator apps. “For many AM operators working diligently to keep their over-the-air signal on the air, providing the local news, music, entertainment, and emergency information that their communities rely upon, the expense of streaming their station and paying additional royalties is simply not realistic,” NASBA says.
Almost all survey respondents (99%) indicated they participate in the Emergency Alert System (EAS). According to FEMA, Primary Entry Point or PEP stations – designated distribution stations for EAS messages that are mostly on the AM dial – can reach 90% of the U.S. population in the event of an emergency. “That coverage is significantly reduced if AM can no longer be found in automobiles, “ NASBA says.
The heads of 10 state broadcaster associations have formed a Dashboard Subcommittee within NASBA to slow or stop the removal of AM radio from the dashboard. The subcommittee is working with member stations, the National Association of Broadcasters, and proponents of AM radio around the country.