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Witnesses Tout Value of AM Radio at Congressional Hearing


U.S. Congress
U.S. Congress

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology entitled "Listen Here: Why Americans Value AM Radio" was held Tuesday. Committee Chair Bob Latta (R-OH) delivered opening remarks:" "AM radio has been an integral part of our society for well over a century, connecting Americans to local news and serving as the backbone to our nation's emergency communications infrastructure."

"More than 45 million Americans tune into AM radio each month. They rely on it for local news, weather, sports, and emergency alerts. Its unique frequency characteristics allow signals to travel far and wide, overcoming geographical barriers and reaching both urban and remote areas. This makes AM radio an invaluable tool during times of crisis. When hurricanes, tornadoes, or other natural disasters strike, AM radio remains steadfast, providing vital information to those in affected areas when other communication channels fail."

He also noted that in times of emergency, information is power, and AM radio remains a primary source for emergency reports, while noting local broadcasters have long served as the trusted voice delivering real-time updates, weather alerts, evacuation instructions and other critical information that can mean the difference between life and death."

In a statement, NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt said, "NAB appreciates the leadership of House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, as well as Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta and Ranking Member Doris Matsui, in holding this important hearing highlighting the enduring value of broadcast AM radio. As my colleague J Chapman testified, AM radio continues to play an integral role in keeping our communities informed, engaged and safe, especially in times of emergency when other forms of communication fail.

"America's broadcasters thank the members of the Subcommittee, as well as the numerous lawmakers that have voiced their strong support for the preservation of AM radio in cars. We look forward to working with Congress to preserve public safety and urge passage of the AM Radio For Every Vehicle Act that safeguards AM radio's place in the car."

Wolf Boom Radio President J Chapman also testified before the committee sharing a brief personal story about AM radio's role in times of emergency.

"In June of 2009, I was the general manager of a group of radio stations in Rockford, Illinois. I was returning home that evening with our 11-year-old daughter. She noticed the sky glowing to the south. A few minutes earlier, a freight train derailed at a highway crossing. Nineteen cars derailed. Cars loaded with 2-million gallons of ethanol leaked, some exploded, and the contents caught fire. That fire spread to several nearby cars at a crossing. Sadly, many people were injured, and a life was lost that night.

"Within minutes of the derailment, our stations were broadcasting and coordinating with local officials to direct residents to safety. Our AM station, WNTA, aired critical information throughout that night.

"As bad as it was, this tragedy would have been much worse were it not for the efforts by local emergency management. But I can also say that radio - specifically AM radio - played a very important role. Our on-air staff of WNTA-AM were the ones directing people to safety. A text message on a cell phone doesn't do what AM radio did that night."

Chapman also noted that AM radio stations play a crucial role in the nation's Emergency Alert System. "The EAS is our national public warning system. It's available to the President and is commonly used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information.

"The vast majority of Primary Entry Points (or PEP stations), which comprise the EAS, are AM radio stations and this is because: an AM station can cover a vast area, some as much as 700 miles, and AM also travels better through solid objects like mountains.

"FEMA has invested millions to make these stations withstand natural disasters and acts of terrorism. But the stations themselves are responsible for operating in times of crisis.

"A car is often the only source of power and news for many in an emergency. AM radio's presence in cars helps ensure that listeners won't lose access to emergency alerts during times of crisis and cannot be replicated by other media. Unlike the internet and cell phone service, radio stations continue to function during power outages, natural disasters, and other emergencies.

"Despite AM radio's critical role, some automakers have removed AM radio from electric vehicles and signaled that they may remove AM radio from new models of internal combustion engine vehicles.

"Local broadcasters were pleased that as a result of this letter, Ford announced a decision to reverse its course. The NAB applauds this decision and calls on other automakers to follow suit.

A bipartisan bill has also been introduced. Like other safety requirements, the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act would preserve AM radio in cars by requiring the Transportation Secretary to issue a rule under which motor vehicles would be required to include a device that can receive AM radio. Broadcasters support this legislation."

Chapman concluded, "It's not a zero-sum game. We can protect Americans with the one dependable system (EAS) to communicate in times of crisis. Automakers have protected car occupants and the electronics in cars for a long time. It can be done. This moment is too important not to act."

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