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Temporary Setbacks?

House AM Radio Mandate Markup Postponed; Subpanel Moves on CPB Advance Funding End

House lawmakers dealt a pair of potentially temporary setbacks Thursday to CPB and commercial broadcasting legislative interests. The House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Subcommittee advanced its FY25 bill without advance FY 2027 funding for CPB, as expected (see 2406250056). Meanwhile, the House Commerce Committee abruptly canceled a planned Thursday markup of the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act (HR-8449). The American Privacy Rights Act (HR-8818) and Kids Online Safety Act (HR-7891) were expected to draw contentious debate during the markup (see 2406260062).

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House Commerce’s last-minute cancellation appeared to reflect chamber GOP leaders’ opposition to some elements of HR-8818 (see 2406270046) rather than a reversal of fortune for HR-8449’s proposal that DOT mandate AM radio's inclusion in future electric vehicles, congressional aides and broadcasting lobbyists told us. The committee likely would have swiftly advanced HR-8449 on a lopsided bipartisan vote Thursday if the markup had occurred, lobbyists said. The House Innovation Subcommittee approved the measure in May on a voice vote (see 2405230057).

HR-8449 lead Democratic sponsor and House Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone, D-N.J., planned a substitute amendment to HR-8449 that would have clarified that the proposed AM radio mandate applies to “passenger motor vehicles” only. HR-8449 critic Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., sought an amendment that would sunset the DOT rule if the department or Government Accountability Office determines it’s “no longer required to provide access [Integrated Public Alert and Warning System] communications.” The sunset would trigger if GAO finds “there are alternative means of providing content transmitted by AM broadcast stations” in vehicles “that result in less cost to consumers than requiring devices that can receive” broadcast signals be standard equipment in autos.

Dingell’s amendment also proposes sunsetting the rule if a required DOT review finds “there is incompatibility” between AM receivers “and advancement of future safety technology in motor vehicles, including on-vehicle sensors” and power systems. She wants to reduce to three years the amount of time before DOT must review whether the mandate “is needed to provide access to IPAWS communications that cannot otherwise be met through other” communication technologies. HR-8449 currently would require a review five years after enactment. Dingell’s amendment would require DOT to annually seek stakeholders’ feedback on “challenges or incompatibility between the devices required by the rule and advancement of vehicle safety technology in motor vehicles.”

HR-8449 “continues to enjoy incredible momentum and widespread Congressional support for AM radio's crucial role in America’s public safety infrastructure, and we are hopeful this bill will continue to move through the legislative process soon,” Alex Siciliano, NAB senior vice president-communications, said in an email. He noted HR-8449 and an earlier version, HR-3413/S-1669, have more than ”310 bipartisan cosponsors in both chambers of Congress.”

House Appropriations and LHHS leaders didn’t specifically mention the proposed end of advance CPB funding during the FY25 bill’s markup. Instead, House Appropriations and LHHS ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., noted the measure’s collective cuts to education programs. She added it would be unlikely to pass both chambers without support from Democrats. Similarly, House Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., acknowledged a final LHHS spending bill would likely “bend toward the middle at the end because you’ve got to get 60 votes” in the Senate “no matter who’s running it.”

America’s Public Television Stations are profoundly disappointed and mystified that the subcommittee has once again proposed to eliminate federal funding for public media in the FY 2025 appropriations bill,” CEO Patrick Butler said. In March, President Joe Biden proposed increasing CPB's annual funding to $595 million for FY 2027 (see 2403110056). House Appropriations LHHS tried to end advance CPB funding for FY26 as part of the FY 2024 cycle, but Congress ultimately allocated $535 million as part of a March minibus package (see 2403210067).

The American people consistently rank us among the best investments the government makes, after only national defense and food and drug safety,” Butler said: “Yet here we are, still struggling to maintain a federal appropriation that amounts to about $1.60 per American. We remain hopeful that the strong bipartisan support for public media, both in Congress and among the American people, will ultimately result in full funding … as the appropriations process moves forward.”