Tuesday was a momentous day on Capitol Hill for broadcasters as the House Energy and Commerce Committee held the first hearing on retaining AM in vehicles, titled “Listen Here: Why Americans Value AM Radio.” Automakers leaned on EAS alternatives while Representatives from both parties blasted car manufacturers’ decision to remove AM from dashboards.
Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers presided over the hearing with solid support for AM. In her opening remarks, she said, “My constituents in Eastern Washington rely on AM radio. It is how they hear the news in their communities, listen to sports, and receive information during emergencies.”
“In many parts of my district, FM radio is spotty and there is no access to broadband, so AM radio is the only option. Which is why it’s concerning that some vehicle manufacturers have taken steps recently to remove AM radios from new car models.”
Scott Schmidt represented the auto industry’s lobbying arm in arguing against the AM For Every Vehicle Act mandate. As VP for Safety Policy at the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, Schmidt claimed that alternative technologies like the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) can transmit safety messages and that mandates could impede innovation.
Rep. Rodgers had a rebuttal, saying, “While people in some parts of the country have been able to take advantage of alternative options in vehicles for accessing AM radio, like through a streaming service, many parts of the country still lack access to reliable broadband services, meaning this option would be unavailable.”
J Chapman, the President and Owner of Woof Boom Radio, testified on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters and emphasized the vital role of AM during emergencies. He shared a personal story of how his AM stations provided critical information and helped direct people to safety during a 2009 train derailment in Illinois.
While not in attendance at the hearing, AM For Every Radio Act co-sponsor Senator Ed Markey expressed his support through social media. In a tweet containing Radio Ink‘s recent story about former FEMA Director Michael Brown‘s support for AM, Sen. Markey said, “The message from emergency response officials is clear: AM radio is an essential emergency communication tool. We must pass my AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act and protect this vital technology.”
NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt, who has been leading the industry’s fight to maintain AM, said, “NAB appreciates the leadership of House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, as well as Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta and Ranking Member Doris Matsui, in holding this important hearing highlighting the enduring value of broadcast AM radio. As my colleague J Chapman testified, AM radio continues to play an integral role in keeping our communities informed, engaged and safe, especially in times of emergency when other forms of communication fail.”
“America’s broadcasters thank the members of the Subcommittee, as well as the numerous lawmakers that have voiced their strong support for the preservation of AM radio in cars. We look forward to working with Congress to preserve public safety and urge passage of the AM Radio For Every Vehicle Act that safeguards AM radio’s place in the car.”