Is it the job of the federal government to ensure that AM radio lives to see another century? According to Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who introduced the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act back in May, the government must ensure auto manufacturers keep AM radio technology built into next-generation vehicles.
Like the consumers who drive them, cars change with time. They change to keep up with the expectations and demonstrated preferences of consumers. That’s why Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has offered an amendmentto the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act that would remove the AM radio mandate and nix the electric vehicle tax credit within it that subsidizes EV purchases. He is right to do so.
You might recall, as I do, when every decent station wagon in America had a cigarette lighter, ashtray, and cassette player. My 1992 Ford Taurus station wagon certainly did. Of course, by this time in my life, CDs were the standard for listening to music in the car. Gas stations in the early 2000s sold portable CD players to tape cassette adapters that allowed drivers of older cars like me to plug their Discman into the car’s stereo system.
It leads me to wonder if the cassette tape industry had lobbyists fighting for their survival in Washington, D.C., like the radio broadcasters do with the National Association of Broadcasters backing Markey’s bill.
The AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act has amassed 43 co-sponsors, including Democrats such as Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Bob Casey (D-PA), as well as Republicans such as Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Democrats tend to support this measure in the name of public safety, citing AM radio’s importance for emergency notifications such as the kind that could have saved lives during the recentHawaii wildfires.
Automakers say the AM frequencies create buzzing noises and faded signals within their newer EVs. The technologies aren’t mixing well.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) sought unanimous consent for the legislation, which would have the Department of Transportation mandate AM radio access in all new motor vehicles manufactured and sold in the U.S. Paul’s objection and amendment throws the bill back into standard Senate procedure, which allows for amendments and a final vote.
The subject is divisive for libertarian Republicans such as Paul and his more conservative colleagues such as Cruz who view preserving AM radio as a free speech cause. “I believe these automakers stood up to remove AM radio as part of a broader pattern we see of censoring views that are disfavored by Big Business,” Cruz remarked. “I think this is consistent with what Big Tech has done, silencing views they disagree with. And so this bill is all about preserving consumer choice — letting consumers decide.”
This makes little sense. Consumer choice is not about putting anything and everything in a car that consumers could want. Mandating the inclusion of a Red Bull cooler beneath the glove compartment isn’t suddenly a matter of consumer choice because the driver can choose whether or not they want a Red Bull to drink. Auto manufacturers are keenly aware of what drivers of new cars value, and it is not AM radio.
Cruz’s desire to make automobile design standards a part of the culture war is disingenuous and a betrayal of limited government principles.
Consumers can hear Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Buck Sexton anytime they want on smartphones using iHeartRadio apps, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and a long list of other options. The idea that a consumer buying a 2024 Tesla or Toyota won’t also have a smartphone armed with these capabilities is laughable.
For drivers who place traditional radio atop their list of concerns, there are used car lots for a reason.
However, Republican politicians understand that there are progressive forces in Washington that seek to limit access to older model gas vehicles and gradually regulate them out of the market. In such an event, regulators would force all consumers into new EV cars in the name of environmental metrics, while simultaneously quieting the noise of their likely critics on talk radio.
That’s why the Consumer Choice Center exists, and we’re in the fight for choice to ensure that kind of outcome isn’t possible. But Cruz is not helping by muddying the meaning of consumer choice with efforts to protect legacy industries such as AM radio on behalf of the broadcasters.
Originally published here