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Ford Reverses on AM; NAB Still Pushing for Mandate

Ford Motor announced the company won’t remove AM radio from its cars in the U.S. after getting pushback from lawmakers and broadcasters. “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” in all 2024 Ford and Lincoln models, Ford CEO Jim Farley tweeted Tuesday. “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,” said NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt. Carmakers such as BMW and Tesla said AM won’t be in some models. “Broadcasters will continue to support this major legislation to ensure consumer access to AM radio in all vehicles," NAB said.

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Keeping AM in cars “will keep Americans safe and informed, particularly in times of emergency,” LeGeyt said. “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.” Carmakers said eliminating AM would save costs, particularly in electric vehicles, which can interfere with the radio band. But broadcasters and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said it's a vital public safety tool. The National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters said Monday (see 2305220059) that AM provides diverse sources of local news.

Auto and consumer electronic groups condemned legislative proposals to mandate AM in cars. “Congress should allow auto manufacturers and consumers to choose designs that prioritize individual choice and technological innovation rather than mandate a particular communications technology,” said a letter to lawmakers Monday from CTA, the Zero Emission Transportation Association, TechNet and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. "This just proves what we've said all along -- that a Washington mandate is unnecessary," emailed CTA Policy Affairs Manager India Herdman. "If automakers want to provide AM radios in their new cars, they have always been able to and will continue to be able to without any congressional action.""Broadcasters will continue to fight for AM in all vehicles sold in the U.S.," tweeted the North Carolina Broadcasters Association.

Farley said Monday a software update will enable AM for owners of Ford electric vehicles currently without AM broadcast capability. "Customers can currently listen to AM radio content in a variety of ways in our vehicles -- including via streaming -- and we will continue to innovate to deliver even better in-vehicle entertainment and emergency notification options in the future,” Farley said. “Interesting that AM capability wasn’t actually removed from some EVs; rather, it was disabled thus reducing consumer choice," tweeted NAB Vice President-Spectrum Policy Robert Weller. “It seems that AM reception in some EVs is not an interference problem after all.”

The House Commerce Committee said Tuesday it plans an “early June” hearing on the “importance of AM radio installation in new cars.” Panel leaders didn’t specifically reference either Ford’s announcement or the AM for Every Vehicle Act (HR-3413/S-1669) that bipartisan lawmakers filed last week to direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue a rule mandating AM radio access in new vehicles (see 2305170051).

House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta, R-Ohio, separately hailed Ford’s AM radio move, saying keeping the technology “will ensure Americans have up-to-date emergency broadcasting in inclement weather, local news, sports, and more.” He was one of more than 100 House members who wrote Ford and other automakers urging them to keep AM radio receivers in electric vehicles (see 2305150063).

S-1669 lead sponsor Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., also praised 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. 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,” he said.