Dump AM Radio in New Cars? Professor Says Don't Touch That Dial

Mitch McKenney explains why there is a critical need to maintain access to AM radio in cars

For all the bells and whistles modern vehicles offer today, such as high-tech infotainment systems, Bluetooth connectivity and streaming services, there is one critical safety feature that today’s Teslas just can’t offer: AM radio.

While AM radio may be seen as a seldom-used dinosaur in today’s world of multimedia entertainment options, it is still relied upon to relay critical emergency information – particularly in small towns and rural areas. According to a recent report from Spectrum News 1 Ohio, more than 45 million listeners count on AM radio each month for information on natural disasters and other emergencies in their areas.

Mitch McKenney, associate professor and undergraduate coordinator in Kent State University's School of Media and Journalism

U.S. Rep. Bob Latta wants to ensure today’s vehicles still include AM radio for this very reason. Latta has been reaching out to top automaker executives urging them to reconsider removing AM radio from newer cars being built. Mitch McKenney, associate professor and undergraduate coordinator in Kent State University’s School of Media and Journalism, explained in an interview with Spectrum News 1 Ohio why AM radio coverage needs to be maintained.

“The concern that they’re raising in terms of the legislation is what if there’s not cellular service? How do you have emergency broadcast reach people?” McKenney shared in a media interview.

While electric vehicles such as Teslas cannot include AM radio due to electrical interference issues, McKenney explains this does not need to be a barrier. AM stations can be simulcasted on FM stations or streamed.

“Streaming right now of radio is up over 10%,” he said. “Somewhere between 12-15% of radio listening is by streaming, according to the Nielsen statistics, and it has been growing.”

So far, Ford executives have heard Latta’s plea and have committed to maintain AM radio in all 2024 model year Ford and Lincoln vehicles.

Watch the Spectrum News 1 Ohio story featuring McKenney.

POSTED: Tuesday, May 30, 2023 03:45 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 1, 2023 04:08 PM
Amy Antenora