Vehicles Without AM/FM
There are a number of reasons why automobile manufacturers may be considering dropping AM/FM radios from the car dashboard.
Some of the reasons are things our industry cannot do anything about. But some of the reasons are things we can do something about. AM and FM radio receivers are essential in times of emergencies and our industry needs to amp up everyone’s recognition of that.
Below are reasons I can think of why auto manufacturers may consider removing AM and FM radios. I believe that our industry should confront these reasons and determine how to counteract this disturbing prospect:
• AM/FM radio antennas that work well are expensive (for instance, diversity antennas for FM). Conversely, inexpensive car radio antennas do not work well and lead to car owner complaints.
• AM/FM radio antennas are larger, more ugly and more difficult to design into a car than satellite radio and 4G antennas.
• Automobiles are now producing vastly greater electrical noise from a variety of computers and electronics within the vehicle. Filtering, choking, or shielding all of the noise sources is complicated and expensive. Noise from car electronics results in poor AM and FM reception.
• Cars are being made of composite materials that make poor ground planes for AM reception.
• HD radio reception for both AM and FM in many markets has time-alignment and audio level alignment issues leading to new-car-buyer customer complaints.
• The implementation of the HD radio interface in many car receivers is abysmal from a driver ease-of-use perspective.
• AM and FM may take away a potential income stream for car manufacturers from either Sirius/XM or from cooperative agreements with cell phone companies for 4G chips in car receivers.
• Car buyers are telling dealers that they do not listen to radio.
Our industry can do nothing about cars being made of composite material. We can, however, do something about the sometimes abysmal state of HD radio transmission implementation so that frequent HD listening transitions between digital to analog are not annoying and irritating to radio listeners.
Above all, as much as we all loathe government, we ideally look to our national government to recognize that AM and FM radio is the essential link between information and ignorance, and potentially life and death, in times of emergencies. The one-to-thousands or -millions nature of radio broadcasting, the immediacy, and the redundancy of dozens of stations reaching every citizen, cannot be replicated or equaled by any other media, particularly after a disaster hits and the population is without power and in need of emergency information.
Taking care of citizens in times of disaster is an essential governmental function. Our government will be less able to fulfill this function of aiding and protecting us in emergencies if we do not have AM and FM radios readily available in cars, homes, and businesses.
I would love to go so far as to posit that it should be government’s role to mandate that every consumer communications device such as cell phones, car radios, and MP3 players have integrated into it the ability to solidly receive AM and FM broadcasts. Such a mandate would mean that car manufacturers would be required to continue to equip cars with AM and FM radios that achieve certain reception standards (a radio that is so cheap and functioning so poorly that it only receives stations within five miles does no good in times of emergencies).
Toward the goal of solid AM and FM reception, car manufacturers should be mandated to filter, choke, and shield noise sources in cars so that cars are not a rolling noise source, and to install AM and FM antennas that perform to a certain standard. After all, car manufacturers are now federally required for many cars to meet certain crash standards, have tire pressure monitors, have anti-lock brakes, and have stability controls, all for emergencies. Car manufacturers should also be required to have good, solidly-performing car radios.
Our broadcasting industry comes late to this challenge. We should have embarked on this quest in the early 1990s. There were broadcasters who tried to do so two decades ago but got no traction from the broadcast industry for reasons such as, “If we ask for receiver standards, that might make AM sound better and that would hurt my FM,” and so on. We radio broadcasters are often our own worst enemy.
Simply put, AM and FM radios are essential in times of emergency. It is too late when disaster hits to ponder, "If only I had a radio in this car, I would know where the shelter is … if only I had a radio in this car, I would know where there is food and water … if only I had a radio in this car, I would know that flash floods are coming … if only I had a radio in this car, I would know that the worst of the hurricane is heading right for me … if only I had a radio in this car, I would know that there is lethal radiation in the town in which I was about to seek shelter.” Once an emergency is upon us, it is too late to ponder the installation of an AM and FM radio in a car.
John F. Garziglia is a Communications Law Attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Washington, DC and can be reached at (202) 857-4455 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a question for our "Ask The Attorney" feature? Send to email@example.com.
(3/31/2013 7:40:26 AM) |
I survived Hurricane Charlie in southwest FL in 2005. There was no cell service, no internet, as the storm destroyed cell towers for several miles. There was also no regular telephone service. AM and FM radio still worked, obviously.
|- Peter Politian|
(3/10/2013 7:30:12 PM) |
Public safety, my fat fanny.
Recently in the San Diego area we had a large, system-wide power outage.
Every station in the area went off the air with one exception.
I guess one is better than none, but still this sudden dedication to "public safety" just doesn't hold a lot of water.
(3/10/2013 4:47:29 PM) |
The radio industry just doesn't get it. People aren't listening to radio anymore because they're tired of the 18 minute hourly spot load and shrinking playlists. Music streaming is highly customizable (something radio will never be), offers interactivity for the listener (radio continues to lose ground on this one too), has far fewer commercials (at one of the classic rock stations in my town 30% of every hour is non-music content), and is very easily and very accurately measured (Arbitron, need I say more?). I survived Hurricane Wilma in southern Florida in 2005 and, although the power went out and there was no way I was going to go sit in my car to hear the radio, my cell phone worked flawlessly during the entire event. I was able to get real time information and have conversations with loved ones back home. I simply did not need radio. So the "radio is a necessity during emergencies" claim doesn't hold as much water as many radio people think. Even if you get a government mandate to force the accessibility of radio technology, that doesn't mean people will listen. I'm not going to stream my local radio station on iHeartRadio which has the same monstrous spot load. People won't listen because radio provides an inferior product that simply cannot compete in today's competitive market.
|- Derek Hancock|
(3/10/2013 11:46:57 AM) |
When John speaks you'd better listen.
I think "follow the money" applies here.
If the auto manufacturers are threatening to drop am/fm radios from their production, several things are in play:
1. Radio succesfully beat back the satellite radio option, robbing the car manufacturers of millions in commissions.
2. Abandoning am/fm and offering only satellite or Pandora-like receivers could be a big revenue producer for the auto manufacturers.
3. As John says, the technical aspects will be a lot cheaper for the car makers.
4. AM/fm could be offered as an option after a few years. Car manufacturers have done this before, dropping a standard feature only to bring it back later, for a fee.
The manufacturers, knowing radio people have a terrible inferiority complex, can throw out garbage like "people aren't listening to radio anymore" and know that radio people will go beserk, probably offering them cheap ads or free ads if they install am/fm radios in trade.
(3/9/2013 1:29:46 PM) |
The problem A M Stations are not maintaining there towers so the filters might not help because there won't be enough signal to filter . The cost to maintain them is more than the station makes .Why can't internet stations be live and have E A S equipment to.The advertisers have to go some place. I think the cost of keeping A M /F M on the air is going to finish it off.
|- Eric Ochs|
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