Thursday, May 18, 2023

Auto manufacturers trying to kill AM radio?

As part of my High Plains Pundit gig, I wind up doing radio on a number of stations around the country every month. Most of them are AM stations. 

It’s been something of a tradition in the United States for decades that AM radio is the home of conservative talk radio and news stations. But if the major automotive manufacturers have their way, those days may be coming to a close. 

Ford is joining other companies in announcing that its new car models starting next year will not have an AM radio installed. That option is being replaced by “internet streaming, digital and satellite options.” 

At PJ Media, Stephen Green (better known as Vodkapundit) provides a nice history of AM radio and why this change will not make many people happy:

Now imagine you hop in your new car for the first time, pull up the radio on the infotainment screen, look for the AM button, and… there isn’t one. It’s FM or nothin’, Jack — and none of those pesky conservative talkers — if Democrats in Washington and automakers in Detroit get their way.

I got a heads-up about this plan earlier today from the powers-at-be at Salem Media, the folks who sign my paychecks. Already, Ford is removing AM radio from “new and updated 2024 models,” according to a Fox Business report. Ford said in a press release that “A majority of U.S. AM stations, as well as a number of countries and automakers globally, are modernizing radio by offering internet streaming through mobile apps, FM, digital and satellite radio options.”

You really have to wonder what is driving this change. Ford’s claims of wanting to “modernize” with these other options on fancier “radios” with interactive screens are nonsense. Electronic circuitry in the modern era has been miniaturized to ridiculous levels. You could fit an AM radio option into them without an issue. And since the majority of AM radio listening takes place in cars, all this will do is drive down advertising revenue for the stations.

Also, as Green points out, even if many AM stations offer a streaming option that you might still be able to find on these new devices, not all of them will. Many of the smallest stations, including minority voices with smaller audiences, may not have the resources to set up such a service. We will have lost something significant if those voices are silenced.

Also, Ford and the rest are probably underestimating the number of people who will be displeased by this decision. As Vodkapundit pointed out, Westwood One recently reported that more than 83 million people listen to AM radio at least monthly. Well over half of AM listeners tune in to news/talk stations. This is even more critical during emergencies and power outages (or designed rolling blackouts… thanks, Joe Biden!) because, during times such as those, you can lose power, internet, and cable television access. But do you know what still works? Your good old AM radio with a fresh battery in it. And that’s where the local government will be broadcasting important information if an emergency situation is unfolding.

This is a bad decision by Ford and the rest and they need to be hearing about it from their customer base. They’re already charging too darned much for their cars as it is. They don’t need to make the driver’s experience less enjoyable on top of being a financial strain.

By way of full disclosure, I should point out that High Plains Pundit is currently in the process of actively lobbying Congress to put pressure on the industry to not kill off AM radio.

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