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Controversy Brewing as Congress Pushes for AM Radios in All New Cars

2023

The debate surrounding the fate of AM radio has intensified as Congress proposes a mandate to include AM radio receivers in every new vehicle. While some politicians argue that this move is crucial for public safety and emergency alerts, trade groups representing the automotive and technology industries disagree, stating that the plan is ill-conceived and obstructive to progress.

AM radio, a broadcasting veteran that has outlived various entertainment options like vinyl, cassettes, and CDs, now faces the challenge of keeping up with modern trends. As new vehicle models, especially electric cars, hit the roads, streaming audio is becoming the preferred choice, leaving AM radio trailing behind.

Congress members, unhappy with the phase-out of AM radio in certain vehicles, have proposed the "AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act." The bill seeks to mandate the inclusion of AM radio receivers as standard equipment in all new cars, with no additional cost to the buyer. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) are among the co-sponsors of the legislation, stressing the importance of AM radio as a crucial channel for emergency alerts and disseminating information.

While the Federal Communications Commission and the radio broadcasting industry back the proposed law, the actual implementing industries are less enthusiastic. In a letter addressed to the bill's co-sponsors, organizations like the Zero Emission Transportation Association, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the Consumer Technology Association, and TechNet point out the flaws in the plan.

The legislation emphasizes the use of AM radio for emergency alerts, but critics argue that in the digital age, there are more effective and accessible ways to broadcast such alerts, like Wireless Emergency Alerts on cellphones. According to the trade groups, 97 percent of Americans already own cellphones, which are designed to receive such alerts and can even do so when cellular networks are down. Additionally, cellphone alerts can include embedded hyperlinks, providing recipients with instant access to vital information.

As the debate rages on, it remains to be seen whether Congress will succeed in pushing this legislation forward. While some champion the preservation of AM radio for its historical significance and local sports broadcasts, others believe it's time to embrace modern technology for more effective emergency communication.

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