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  • Writer's pictureTim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

Kansas lawmakers turn up volume on resolution mandating AM radios in new vehicles

The Kansas House voted overwhelmingly for a resolution urging Congress to compel vehicle manufacturers to install AM radios in all cars and trucks — radios that would have been installed in the dash of this 1953 Studebaker Champion. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)


By Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector


TOPEKA — Members of the Kansas House declared in a loud, clear voice Wednesday support for a resolution calling on Congress to force federal transportation safety officials to require installation in all new motor vehicles a device capable of capturing AM broadcast stations.


The House voted 109-14 for House Concurrent Resolution 5026, which called upon the Kansas congressional delegation and leaders of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to use their political leverage to intervene in the manufacturing of cars and trucks for the domestic market.


The nonbinding resolution emphasized the importance of AM radio and support of a congressional effort to pass a law requiring the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue a rule declaring AM radios standard in new vehicles.


Rep. Bill Rhiley, R-Wellington, said the resolution was unlikely to sway Congress, but it was important to register a rural opinion on the subject.


“Over 80 million people in the U.S. listen to AM radio each month. There are more than 6,000 AM radio stations,” he said. “The radio frequency of AM radio travels hundreds of miles, making it a strong media for stations to get information out to less-populated areas. FM radio frequencies are clearer, but their range is only in line-of-sight miles.”


St. John Republican Rep. Brett Fairchild said he voted against the resolution despite an appreciation for politically conservative talk shows common on the AM dial. He said it would be wrong for federal lawmakers to dictate to manufacturers what sort of audio system was installed new vehicles.


“I believe this violates free market principles and limited-government principles. I don’t like that,” he said.


Democratic Rep. Linda Featherston of Overland Park said she relied on AM radio to follow the Kansas City Royals and sports programs at Kansas State University. She greatly dislikes owning a vehicle without an AM dial, but she said that didn’t justify using the legislative process for “personal axes I wish to grind.”


In mid-March, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee conducted a hearing on the resolution. The measure was endorsed by Rep. Ken Rahjes, the Agra Republican and chairman of the committee, as well as the Kansas Association of Broadcasters.


KASB president Allison Mazzei said AM reception in vehicles was important for emergency preparedness, support of the agriculture industry and to meet general information needs of rural communities.


“Radio serves as a cornerstone of communication,” Mazzei said. “The Kansas Association of Broadcasters has diligently advocated for the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act, meeting with every member of our state’s federal delegation to garner support for this crucial legislation. We are pleased to report that each member has acknowledged the significance of AM radio and has committed to co‐sponsoring the bill.”


Several automakers removed or planned to remove AM radio receivers from electric vehicles due to electromagnetic interference generated from batteries, said Claudia Hissong of Kansas Farm Bureau. Ford said a year ago it would exclude AM radios from 2024 models, but reversed course in face of criticism and agreed to keep AM units in both Ford and Lincoln vehicles.


She said the proposed federal legislation would require automakers to maintain AM broadcast radio in vehicles without a separate payment, fee or surcharge beyond the base price of the device. Vehicle manufacturers would have to disclose to consumers when vehicles lacked the ability to access AM broadcast radio, she said.


This article was reprinted with permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at www.kansasreflector.com.

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