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Saving AM radio in vehicles

Saving AM radio in vehicles

Some automakers are considering removing AM radio from cars

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

AM radio broadcasters are calling on U.S. farmers to support a piece of legislation that’s received bipartisan support from members of Congress.

People within the broadcasting industry want farmers to support the AM for Every Vehicle Act.

“Without farmers I don’t think this legislation would have any chance,” Brian Winnekins, a spokesperson for the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), and the owner of WRDN in Durand, Wis., told

This bill, originally introduced in May 2023, would ensure car manufacturers include AM broadcast radio in new vehicles at no additional charge. It would also mandate manufacturers inform customers ahead of time that a new vehicle may be without AM radio.

Carmakers like Volvo, Mazda, Tesla and Audi have dropped AM receivers from some electric models.

Ford originally announced it would remove AM radio from all vehicles but backtracked on it.

The automakers say the electric engines can interfere with AM radio broadcasts.

“The electric drivetrain design that is necessary for the performance of electric vehicles is also the direct source of significant interference to AM radio transmissions,” Rohan Patel, a Tesla spokesperson, told senators in a December 2022 letter.

That’s because carmakers aren’t using good equipment, Winnekins said.

“The manufacturers are putting in garbage receivers,” he said. “I have people tell me AM radio sounds better in their truck from the late 90s than the vehicle they just spent $80,000 on. When you stream WRDN on your phone, you’re listening to an over the air AM stereo receiver.”

Brian WinnekinsThe U.S. has more than 4,470 licensed AM radio stations across the country, the NAFB says. Of those, more than 1,500 provide ag programming.

And when NAFB commissioned a survey about AM radio listening habits, 74 percent of respondents said they listen to ag radio five or more days per week.

Winnekins and the NAFB are encouraging farmers to contact their Congresspeople, and car manufacturers, to voice their support for keeping AM radio readily available.

The NAFB has tools on its website to help contact members of Congress and show support on social media.

“The car companies definitely need to hear from customers that if they take AM radio away, we won’t buy their product,” he said. “Nothing gets a company to move faster than customers saying they’ll shop elsewhere.”

The move to take away AM radio in new vehicles, Winnekins says, is to force customers to pay more for services.

“The manufacturers want customers to sign up for subscription services,” he said. “If the satellite radio companies do a deal with the car manufacturers and the car companies would be getting a cut, why wouldn’t they go for that? It’s all just a cash grab.”

General Motors is transparent with its goals.

The company has set a target of generating $25 billion in revenue from subscriptions by 2030.

For context, Netflix generated about $33.7 billion in revenue in 2023.

This scenario with AM radio is like another topic in the ag industry, Winnekins said.

“It’s not that much different than right to repair,” he said. “The manufacturers want you to buy a product and then be beholden to them for any upgrades, updates or repairs.”

An issue with the potential move to force drivers to stream radio stations on through their mobile devices is bandwidth reliability.

Communities will see an example of this on April 8 during the eclipse, Winnekins said.

“You’ll see cellphone systems collapse because they will be overwhelmed,” he said. “It happens in places like Disney because everyone is taking videos and filming and posting. Now multiple that by millions of drivers on the road.”

Winnkeins has been involved in radio since 1989 and purchased WRDN in 2011.

He cited two instances that showed the power of AM radio and how it affects the community.

One was in 2019 about farmer mental health.

“That was a chance for farmers to tell their stories and try to prevent farmer suicide,” he said. “It was unbelievable, the stories we heard and the number of people who got involved to put a spotlight on the issue.”

Another occurred during the pandemic.

Winnekins and his colleagues created a school program for the morning.

“We had parents saying to us they couldn’t get online to do the online classes, so we did school on the radio from 10 to 11,” he said. “We had teachers come in and teach class, say hi to their students, do birthday shoutouts and all of that. That was possible because AM radio can handle that kind of volume.”

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