U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is weighing in on the elimination of AM radio from several new EVs and gas-powered automobiles, saying he recognizes the “important role” of AM radio.
Speaking with Tony Perkins on Washington Watch, Buttigieg said “We certainly recognize the importance and the important role that AM radio has played and continues to play with regard to people getting information that they need for safety, notably but not only when it comes to weather emergencies.”
He added that he is unsure of “a formal legal role” his department has in the matter, but “it’s certainly something that will be on our mind as we remain in dialogue with the auto industry and with related industries when it comes to transportation.”
Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Mazda, Volvo, and Tesla have all discontinued, or plan to eliminate, AM radio in certain vehicles. This encompasses EV and gas-powered autos in some cases. EV manufacturers have cited interference with AM radio reception due to electromagnetic frequencies from the electric motors.
The issue is at the forefront of concerns for the radio industry with the NAB, state broadcaster associations, and individual radio groups and stations in solidarity with keeping the legacy band present in future automobiles. It has also been a hot-button issue in Washington, with many politicians joining the fight to preserve AM radio.
NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt addressed the issue during a Main Stage event this week at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. “We as an industry have a role to step up and remind the public and automakers of our ongoing relevance,” he said in a fireside chat with Gabriela Teissier, news anchor at Univision’s “Noticias 34” KMEX-DTV in Los Angeles. It is a misconception to think that other ways of distributing AM radio content – via FM translators, online streams, and HD Radio side channels – are an adequate substitute because they don’t have the wide reach AM has, LeGeyt said. “What’s more, radio fulfills an “irreplaceable” role in the National Emergency Alert System. “Those AM stations serve as the backbone for the emergency alerting that goes through the broadcast system,” LeGeyt explained. “So, without that entry point, that system needs to be completely rethought.” Finally, AM radio serves audiences in rural communities and small towns as well as underserved ethnic groups “that no one else is serving.”