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AG Morrisey, 15 other states join push against automakers’ move to scrap AM radio

MORGANTOWN — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has joined a bipartisan chorus of voices opposing several auto manufacturers’ efforts to remove AM radio from their vehicles.

On Wednesday Morrisey signed on to a letter led by Florida’s attorney general and co-signed by 14 others, urging the automakers to reconsider their decisions.

“Each of our states experience natural disasters and other public safety emergencies,” they wrote. “During those emergencies, it is vitally important that federal, state and local officials be able to deliver emergency warnings and other information to their citizens.

“AM radio signals travel greater distances as compared to FM,” they wrote, “and citizens can receive information via AM radio even when phone lines, electricity and cell phones are inoperable.”

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has been leading the charge at the federal level against the move by the automakers. In March, he released results of a survey he had distributed to 20 automakers about their plans. He learned that eight companies — BMW, Ford, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen and Volvo — already had removed AM radios from their electric vehicles.

Forbes reported that Ford plans to phase out AM radio in most of its new and updated car models, even those with internal combustion engines. Ford will keep AM radio in the Mustang Mach-E. Hyundai has no plans to phase out AM radio from its EVs.

EV manufacturers have claimed that EV motors interfere with AM frequencies, resulting in buzzing and faded signals.

The 16 AGs question that assertion in their letter, noting that other EV makers are keeping AM radio in their vehicles. “These decisions suggest that the real problem is not signal interference but a failure of certain automobile manufacturers to appreciate the importance of AM radio.”

With the current administration’s push for 50% of all new vehicles to be electric by 2030, they wrote, removing AM radios could spell the end of the AM radio industry.

The National Association of Broadcasters is among the many industry opponents to the automakers’ move and has launched a “Depend on AM Radio” campaign.

NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt said, “With a monthly audience of 82 million Americans, AM radio is a cornerstone of everyday life for many that also serves a critical, life-saving function during extreme weather and natural disasters. Implementing cost-cutting measures at the expense of our nation’s emergency communications abilities is reckless and will have dire consequences for Americans that rely on AM radio in times of crisis.”

In an alliance of political opposites, Markey teamed with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to send a letter last week to BMW, Tesla, Mazda, Volkswagen, Polestar, Volvo and Rivian.

They wrote: “As you may be aware, Ford announced last month that it would maintain AM radio on all 2024 Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Amid the public outcry over some automakers removing AM radio from electric vehicles, Ford’s decision is a welcome, albeit incomplete, development. As the lead authors of the AM for Every Vehicle Act, we ask that you follow Ford’s lead and make a similar commitment to maintain broadcast AM radio in your company’s current and future vehicle models, including EVs.”

The AM for Every Vehicle Act would direct federal regulators to require automakers to maintain AM broadcast radio in their new vehicles at no additional charge. It has 10 Democrat and 10 Republican sponsors, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. The House version, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., has 108 co-sponsors of both parties.

Last February, seven former FEMA directors joined in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, urging him to do everything he can to ensure automakers keep AM radio in their vehicles.

Federal law mandates that FEMA always maintain its ability to deliver messages to the American people en masse,” they wrote. “The National Public Warning System, the only method the government has to reach every point of the country at once, allows us to do so.”

They continued, “Because of the great distances that its signal carries, and due to its resiliency during even the worst natural disasters, the success of the National Public Warning System hinges on the use of AM radio. However, should EV makers continue removing AM radios from their vehicles, this vital public safety system will no longer function as intended.”

The AGs letter also notes that AM radio provides free sports broadcasts, local news and weather reports, as well as important political commentary to large swaths of America. This especially holds true for those who live in rural communities where broadband or cellular access is sparse or unreliable.

The automakers’ move does have some supporters. Four organizations — the Zero Emission Transportation Association, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the Consumer Technology Association and technology innovation advocates TechNet — joined in a May letter to Markey, Cruz and nine other senators opposing the AM for Every Vehicle Act.

They wrote, “While there are many benefits to AM radio, there are several reasons why such a mandate is unnecessary and contrary to the principles of a free-market economy.”

They wrote, “emergency communications, emergency alerts are delivered through several overlapping mediums to provide maximum redundancy, and the FCC is working to continue improving the system to service a broader array of Americans during emergencies. … FM radio, internet streaming services, better rural broadband, and text alerts supplement any loss of AM radio access.”

Cell phones, they wrote, receive Wireless Emergency Alerts, which are unaffected by network congestion. Americans can receive WEAs even if cellular networks can no longer support other methods of communication.

Digital radios are another alternative, they wrote. Digital audio broadcasting is commonly used in Europe for emergency warning systems.

“Mandating analog AM radio in automobiles — which Congress has never done — is an unnecessary action in the modern communication era and has no bearing on the ability of drivers to receive emergency alerts across multiple modes of communication currently available in automobiles manufactured today,” they wrote.

“Congress should allow auto manufacturers and consumers to choose designs that prioritize individual choice and technological innovation rather than mandate a particular communications technology for information and content that is otherwise widely available to the public through multiple other modes of communication.”

The other states signing on to the AGs’ letter were Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp