As we go to press, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology is holding a hearing about keeping AM radio in the automobile. There is support for AM from both sides of the aisle. Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta and Re. Doris Matsui both expressed support for AM radio. In addition, the Republican Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rogers and Ranking Democrat Frank Pallone also vocalized their support for keeping AM radio in vehicles. The hearing included testimony from:
Jerry Chapman, President, Woof Boom Radio
Lt. Colonel Christopher M. DeMaise, Homeland Security Branch Commander, New Jersey State Police
Scott Schmidt, Vice President, Safety Policy, Alliance for Automotive Innovation
Members of Congress raised a number of issues regarding the importance of AM radio for emergency alerts. It was noted that AM radio is vitally important to FEMA’s EAS system. Many of these stations have been “hardened” to survive natural disasters. In addition, the importance of AM’s larger coverage area as compared to FM or social media services was also referenced. The limits of the wireless system were noted including the fact that these systems get overloaded during emergencies. Wireless systems do not operate when there is a power outage. The importance of “free” AM radio was mentioned not only for emergencies but also for providing news and entertainment to the American people.
For the most part, Scott Schmidt of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation relied on emergency alerts through streaming. Surprisingly, he did not reveal how much it would cost the automakers to keep AM radio in vehicles. When answering questions posed by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D MI), Mr. Schmidt stated that he could not guarantee that all US citizens could get emergency messages today without AM radio.
This is the first step in moving legislation. You can access the hearing here.