AM Radio Swings Back in Battle Over Car Radios

Posted on May 30th, 2023 by

After the FCC’s efforts over the last several years to revitalize AM radio, and the redoubled efforts of many broadcasters to preserve and improve AM service, the recent announcement by Ford Motor Company that it would not be including AM radio in its electric vehicles was a gut punch.  The response has been nuanced and swift.

Initially, many looked to the FCC for a response.  But the FCC does not have jurisdiction over radio receiver manufacturers because Congress has not previously given it that authority, so they were unable to take any meaningful action in response to Ford’s announcement.

In the days following the announcement, a few legislators captured Ford’s decision as impacting public safety.  That ultimately became the rallying cry, and eventually ended up with the introduction of the AM for Every Vehicle Act in Congress to mandate that AM be included in cars.  As drafted, the bipartisan legislation would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to conduct a rulemaking making it a requirement for AM radio to be included in all vehicles.  That legislation has to be adopted and signed into law first, the rulemaking completed, and the new rule then has to become effective.  The FCC will be required to cooperate with NHTSA in the process.  But even with best efforts, we’re probably looking at an end of 2024 effective date for a federal regulation mandating AM in all vehicles.

Ford pivoted in response, announcing that its 2024 electric vehicles would include AM radio.  Its 2023 electric vehicles apparently will not.