Congress looking to keep AM radio from fading out in electric vehicles

Carmakers say electric vehicles don't work well with AM, but Congress is pushing back
Published: Jun. 12, 2023 at 5:50 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - 80 million Americans listen to AM radio every month. Soon, that could drastically decrease as some electric car makers want to eliminate it, but a bill in Congress right now aims to stop those looking to turn the dial.

The main reason for wanting to keep AM radio around is because of the Emergency Alert System that notifies people about the weather.

“By law, radio stations have to test our EAS weekly and monthly,” said Travis Place, NRG Media.

Place said while technology has evolved AM radio may still be the only option for people in rural areas. They rely on it for weather updates, news, and crop reports.

“I guarantee you you will get emails on this from farmers that say, oh yeah, I got the radio on in the barn, never touch the dial, the cows listen to it every day,” said Place.

Not to mention the nostalgia.

“I think for AM, it’s a type of delivery system that we just don’t want to see go away,” said Dave Kallaway, WIFC.

Aside from connection, the debate has a technical aspect.

“Car makers say when they transition to electric vehicles that they don’t work well with AM. That the two are both electrical systems and the one causes interference with the other,” said Chris Conley, Operations Manager, WSAU/WRIG.

Congress isn’t accepting that. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin has introduced bipartisan legislation to require it in vehicles at no cost. Conley thinks it will be an engineering solution.

“Solve the engineering problem so that am radio can stay in the cars of the future,” said Conley.

In a statement to NewsChannel 7, Sen. Baldwin said, “I am proud to go to bat for Wisconsinites who depend on am radio to do their jobs, stay safe, and remain connected to their local communities.”

Place believes the debate isn’t political.

“This debate that is happening on capitol hill is not political. If Senators Johnson and Baldwin can agree on something I’m telling you it’s important for Wisconsinites,” said Place.

AM radio has been around for more than a century. According to Radio Broadcast, the first recognized AM radio broadcast was in 1906.