AM Radio Being Dropped from Cars


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010

I hope that, if interested, you will be able to read this article. I've pasted some of it below. (This struck me: “I can’t imagine what the automakers are thinking,” the mayor said. “In an emergency, the AM signal reaches the rural areas and the FM signal doesn’t. That can be life or death.”)

America’s love affair between the automobile and AM radio — a century-long romance that provided the soundtrack for lovers’ lanes, kept the lonely company with ballgames and chat shows, sparked family singalongs and defined road trips — is on the verge of collapse, a victim of galloping technological change and swiftly shifting consumer tastes.

The breakup is entirely one-sided, a move by major automakers to eliminate AM radios from new vehicles despite protests from station owners, listeners, first-responders and politicians from both major parties.
Automakers, such as BMW, Volkswagen, Mazda and Tesla, are removing AM radios from new electric vehicles because electric engines can interfere with the sound of AM stations. And Ford, one of the nation’s top-three auto sellers, is taking a bigger step, eliminating AM from all of its vehicles, electric or gas-operated.

Some station owners and advertisers contend that losing access to the car dashboard will indeed be a death blow to many of the nation’s 4,185 AM stations — the possible demise of a core element of the nation’s delivery system for news, political talk (especially on the right), coverage of weather emergencies and foreign language programming.
“This is a tone-deaf display of complete ignorance about what AM radio means to Americans,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a trade journal covering the talk radio industry. “It’s not the end of the world for radio, but it is the loss of an iconic piece of American culture.”
For the first hundred years of mass media, AM radio shaped American life: It was where Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his fireside chats; where a young Ronald Reagan announced Chicago Cubs baseball games; where DJs such as Wolfman Jack along the U.S.-Mexico border, Larry Lujack in Chicago, Alan Freed in Cleveland, “Cousin Brucie” Morrow in New York City and Don Imus in California, Texas, Ohio and New York howled, growled and shouted out the latest pop hits.
Through the snap and crackle of distant lightning and the hum of overhead power lines, AM radio’s sometimes-staticky signal dominated the country’s soundscape. From the 1950s into the 1970s, Top 40 hit music stations in many big cities maintained astonishing shares of the audience, with 50 percent and more of listeners tuned to a single station, meaning that people could walk along a city sidewalk and hear one station continuously blasting out of transistor radios, boomboxes and, above all, car radios.

But technology moved on, and the silky smooth sound of FM radio and then the crystal digital clarity of streaming stations and podcasts narrowed AM’s hold on the American imagination.

Now, although 82 million Americans still listen to AM stations each month, according to the National Association of Broadcasters, the AM audience has been aging for decades. Ford says its data, pulled from internet-connected vehicles, shows that less than 5 percent of in-car listening is to AM stations.

....About a third of AM outlets play music, mostly oldies, Spanish or other less popular genres, said Nicole Ovadia, vice president for forecasting and analysis at BIA.

Losing AM’s foreign language stations — such as Polish and Russian outlets in Chicago, Farsi in Los Angeles, five Vietnamese stations in northern and southern California markets — including about 700 Spanish-language stations nationwide, would cut off many immigrant communities from their most trusted source of information, said Pierre Bouvard, chief insights officer at Cumulus Media, which owns more than 400 stations.
“Radio is still the soundtrack of the American worker,” he said. “It’s what people listen to on the way to work. And Ford owners are massive users of AM radio — 1 out of 5 AM listeners are Ford owners, so Ford is missing something here.”

Commenter "Helgasdottir" wrote: AM radio frequencies reach people when nothing else will work. Those frequencies travel farther and can curve with the earth's shape. With climate change throwing more and more emergency weather issues at us, it is totally stupid to do away with it. When cell towers are down or taken over by the military or emergency responders, this life saving option for communications for survival is critical.---

Is that correct, about AM frequencies etc.? Can someone confirm or disconfirm that? Living in the rural Midwest where severe weather is common (a town a few miles north of me was devastated by a tornado a few years ago), I'm interested in this....
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Is that correct, about AM frequencies etc.? Can someone confirm or disconfirm that? Living in the rural Midwest where severe weather is common (a town a few miles north of me was devastated by a tornado a few years ago), I'm interested in this....
Yes, they can reflect back off the ionosphere negating line of site / beyond horizon issues. Skywave - Wikipedia

During the Seismic Triple Whammy of 1992; when we had Earthquakes of 7.2, 6.9 and 6.5 magnitudes, all within about 18 hours; all of the local TV, radio, and electricity were blacked out. Our only contact with the outside world, or our neighbors, was a battery powered AM radio receiving from a San Francisco news station, 300 miles of deep forest and high mountains separated.

FM is more, or less line of sight; though it will filter through some diffuse obstructions, like sparse trees,

The VHF two-way radio, used by mariners, is absolutely line-of-sight. The higher the antenna reaches above the water, the farther is the horizon, thus the ability to make contact.
I think the majority of people are streaming those local radio stations on Wi-Fi via mobile phone signals now, so I doubt they will all close down, but that does nothing to negate the arguments made about the variety of their output, or about their reception, especially in emergencies and bad weather. I've personally been in a camper van where there was supposedly Wi-Fi, but which, in many places, had no phone signal, no Wi-Fi, no FM radio, no TV, zilch! I probably could have got a high wavelength AM radio signal if I'd had a set that could pick it up, but being remote was part of the appeal. These decisions are likely made purely for financial reasons, but they are often made by people living in cities who have never lived in remote rural places, and so they don't even consider these things in their decisions.
I don't know how I'll be able to tune into those localized broadcasts on the highway that describe the traffic jam you are already in.
The copper wire phones can work after a bad storm has shut down local power for a couple of days.
The original tv signals worked in any kind of weather. The digital tv frequencies are total crap compared to those frequencies. They can disappear with just a hazy sky. The old stuff was built to work under adverse conditions. The new stuff relies on bells and whistles to make it seem like a good replacement when all it is a supplement, that is, if you want something that is reliable. Too many people believe if its new, it must be a better product.

is a detailed account of the tornado I mentioned. In memory this seemed more recent than it was.

From where I live, about 25 miles southeast of Thompson, the sky immediately overhead was clear, as I recall, but looking north, I saw a sky I want to describe as apocalyptic. As my often faulty memory recalls it, I heard no thunder nor civil defense sirens, but saw to the north a billowing mass of cloud with constant flickering of lightning.

Tornadoes are most likely to occur here June-August, an active time of year for farmers obviously, so people are out in the fields, getting there in trucks equipped, one hopes, with AM radio.
My cars havent had am radio for years. Suspect it disappeared quietly along with those telescopic chrome car aerials that used to get broken in the auto car wash. I do have a portable am tuner that used to come camping.

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