Spanberger Works to Protect Virginia Drivers’ Access to AM Radio

Many Automakers — Including Ford & GM — Plan to Remove AM Radio Receivers in New Vehicles

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger joined a bipartisan effort expressing concerns about reports that automakers are removing — or planning to remove — broadcast AM radio receivers from new vehicles.

In response to worries about the consumer and public safety impacts of these decisions, Spanberger and her colleagues wrote to corporate leadership at Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Mazda, Volvo, Tesla, Polestar, Rivian, GM, and Mercedes Benz. In their letters, they urged these automakers to maintain AM radio receivers in all vehicles — and they requested answers to specific questions about the rationale for removing these receivers.

“AM radio has more than 45 million listeners each month, and our constituents rely heavily on it for emergency alerts and local news, information, and weather,” said Spanberger and her colleagues. “In the case of natural disasters – tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and other local emergencies – AM radio is a lifeline. It provides early warning, up-to-the minute local information needed to survive when these disasters strike, and ongoing, life-saving information in their aftermath when the danger is often the greatest.”

They continued, “For rural Americans, the importance of having access to AM radio in their car or truck is particularly important. When Internet connectivity and cell phone service is limited or unavailable, these residents do not have as many options to access emergency information as those living in more densely populated areas.”

The bipartisan letter was led by U.S. Representatives Greg Pence (R-IN-06) and Bob Latta (R-OH-05).

Click here to read the letter, and the full letter text is also below.

We write to you to express our concern about reports that your company removed, or plans to remove, broadcast AM radio receivers from current and future vehicles. As the backbone of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), AM radio serves a vital role in our nation’s emergency communications infrastructure.

AM radio has more than 45 million listeners each month, and our constituents rely heavily on it for emergency alerts and local news, information, and weather. In the case of natural disasters – tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and other local emergencies – AM radio is a lifeline. It provides early warning, up-to-the minute local information needed to survive when these disasters strike, and ongoing, life-saving information in their aftermath when the danger is often the greatest.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), over 75 radio stations, most of which operate on the AM band and cover at least 90% of the U.S. population, are equipped with backup communications equipment and generators that allow them to continue broadcasting information to the public during and after an emergency. Most importantly, AM radio is free to all Americans, not requiring a subscription or a broadband connection.

For rural Americans, the importance of having access to AM radio in their car or truck is particularly important. When Internet connectivity and cell phone service is limited or unavailable, these residents do not have as many options to access emergency information as those living in more densely populated areas. AM radio stations are often our constituents’ “go to” source for information in times of crisis. We cannot deprive them of that free, life-saving resource.

Due to your announcement, we request that you answer the following questions, in writing, by May 26, 2023:

  1. Please provide a list of all vehicle models from which your company has removed AM radio receivers and the rationale for removing them.
  1. Please provide a list of all vehicle models from which your company is planning to remove AM radio receivers. In each case, please specify the model year in which AM radio receivers will be removed and the rationale for removing them.
  1. Please provide a list of all vehicle models that will continue to have AM radio receivers.
  1. Has your company evaluated whether current technology is available that is capable of addressing signal interference from electric vehicles (EVs) to the AM radio receivers?
    1. If so, what technology can be used to address signal interference from EVs?
    2. What is the estimated dollar amount per vehicle to mitigate interference to AM radio receivers?
    3. What steps has your company taken to avoid removing AM radio receivers from EVs? If your company has taken no steps, please explain why.
  1. Please provide the details and the value of all federal loan, grant, and tax incentives your company has received in the last 15 years.
    1. Can these government subsidies offset the cost to mitigate interference to AM radio receivers?
  1. Does your company plan to charge its customers for subscription-like access to free AM/FM radio in any vehicles?
  1. Is this part of a broader effort by your company to have services in your vehicles dependent on a subscription, as has been highlighted in recent reports?

We urge you to maintain AM radio receivers in all vehicles and prioritize consumers and public safety. We appreciate your prompt attention to this letter.

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