AM radio (and broadcast radio in general) received strong support from Congressional representatives during this week’s hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Communications and Technology subcommittee. Significant time was spent on recognizing AM radio’s important role in the emergency communications network, both in delivering emergency alerts from the EAS system and in conveying additional information of importance to the public through news and public affairs programming (see the initial statement of J Chapman, a broadcaster based in Indiana who testified on behalf of the AM industry, and the statement of an official of the New Jersey State Police, who talked about the importance of AM in providing emergency information). Virtually all the representatives urged car companies to retain AM in cars. Despite this widespread support, some of the legislators expressed reluctance to adopt a legal mandate to require AM in cars, particularly representatives who have philosophical reservations about the government mandating business decisions. That position was of course highlighted by the testimony of the representative of the automotive industry. In the day’s discussion of these questions, some clues to the future of entertainment in the car may have emerged.
AM and public safety advocates at the hearing argued that AM radio needed to be protected. They emphasized that AM provides the backbone of the emergency alert system due to the ability of high-powered AM stations to cover vast distances unimpeded by terrain obstacles. Even the sole representative of the automobile industry on the panel agreed that, at this point, over the air radio provides the best and most reliable source of free emergency alerts. The additional contextual information provided by news/talk AM stations was also emphasized, as stations can go beyond simply delivering a government issued emergency alert by providing in its programming the details and relevant context in any emergency. While not central to the discussion, especially in the later parts of the hearing, there was also talk of the importance of providing a free audio service to the public for more than just emergency programming, particularly a service that often programs to underserved groups. Protecting the investment of radio operators was also mentioned, as removing AM from cars would vastly decrease the potential audience for most of these stations. The desire to continue providing service to the public from AM stations was the broadcaster’s vision of the future of entertainment options in the car.
Continue Reading The Congressional Hearing on AM Radio – A Look at the Future of Audio Entertainment in the Car?