Ford Motor Company has reversed course on its plan to remove AM radio from all new vehicles, starting in 2024.
“After speaking with policy leaders about the importance of AM broadcast radio as a part of the emergency alert system, we’ve decided to include it on all 2024 Ford and Lincoln vehicles,” wrote Ford CEO Jim Farley, in a post to Twitter on Tuesday morning. “For any owners of Ford EVs without AM broadcast capability, we’ll offer a software update. Customers can currently listen to AM radio content in a variety of ways in our vehicles – including via streaming – and we will continue to innovate to deliver even better in-vehicle entertainment and emergency notification options in the future. Thanks to our product development and manufacturing teams for their quick response to make this change for our customers.”
Ford’s announcement comes following the introduction of the AM for Every Vehicle Act last week which proposes mandating AM radio in new vehicles at no additional charge to buyers and undertaking a study to determine whether AM’s reach and effectiveness could be replicated for alerting the public to emergencies.
“I applaud Ford for tuning into the concerns of millions of listeners, thousands of broadcasters and countless emergency management officials who have called for automakers to keep AM radio in their vehicles,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, co-author of the Act, in a statement. “AM radio is more than just an essential safety feature—it’s a free, accessible source for anyone to listen to music, news, sports, and entertainment. Innovation in the automotive industry should mean more features, not fewer, for consumers. Ford’s reversal reflects an overdue realization about the importance of AM radio, but too many automakers are still going the wrong direction. Congress must pass my AM for Every Vehicle Act to maintain access to AM radio for years to come.”
According to data from consumer profiler MRI Simmons released last month, Ford and GM owners are more likely to listen to AM radio than those who own vehicles from other automakers.
With U.S. lawmakers now set to consider the future of AM radio, tech leaders, including Rich Stern, CEO of global audio streamer TuneIn, are pushing back against the AM radio lobby.
“AM transmission is a legacy distribution technology that is over 100 years old. Insisting that modern EVs carry AM receivers is like demanding iPhones support rotary dialing,” said Stern, in a statement supplied to Broadcast Dialogue. “There are more efficient technologies such as DAB and IP to deliver AM broadcasts to listeners. These new technologies point to a brighter future for the art of broadcasting and allow broadcasters to more meaningfully connect with modern audiences. I think as an industry, we have trouble decoupling the content of radio, and the vital relationship our listeners have with our content, from the nuts and bolts of distribution. AM Radio content will live on and thrive long after the last broadcast tower falls or car radio is replaced with a modern infotainment system.”
Stern said Ford’s decision is an affirmation of radio and the important role it plays in listeners’ lives, but the issue is a “wake up call” for the industry.
“Giving the industry more time to adapt is a good thing, but this is not the solution to the existential challenges facing terrestrial radio distribution in the U.S. We’ve all received the wake up call,” he added. “Digital investment and transformation needs to be a top priority for the industry going forward.”
Yann Legarson, CEO of Radioplayer Worldwide, is advocating for the adoption of hybrid radio tech in vehicles going forward.
“We believe that access to radio and national security services should remain universal and free. This is the strength of AM and FM which remain vital for millions of people in their cars in Canada and around the world,” Legarson told Broadcast Dialogue. “That is why we deeply believe in hybrid radio technology, which combines the best of broadcast and IP. Let’s give listeners the best possible radio experience.”
Subscribe Now – Free!
Broadcast Dialogue has been required reading in the Canadian broadcast media for 30 years. When you subscribe, you join a community of connected professionals from media and broadcast related sectors from across the country.
The Weekly Briefing from Broadcast Dialogue is delivered exclusively to subscribers by email every Thursday. It’s your link to critical industry news, timely people moves, and excellent career advancement opportunities.
Let’s get started right now.