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More woe for the future of AM radio. How long will it survive? The clock may be ticking.

People have been predicting the end of AM radio for decades. There’s no way to make it sound as good as FM. It’s subject to all sorts of electrical interference (lightning, power lines) that cause the signal to fuzz out. It’s not a great medium for music. Yet it’s survived a century and still has its fans (including me.)

But commercial AM radio–now it in at least it’s 100th year of public use–may end up being killed off by the electric car. (I wrote about that here.)

EVs generate all manner of electromagnetic signals that interfere with AM radio, making listening pretty much impossible. Manufacturers are thus omitting AM radios from their EVs. What’s more, is that owners of electric vehicles don’t seem to be bothered by this. Yikes.

Broadcasters which own AM stations are concerned. The car remains radio’s most important environment.

The good news is that AM radio still has its supporters and fans. Edison Research reports that 80% of Americans believe it’s important to have both AM and FM in their cars. (Yes, the survey was sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters, so…) Meanwhile, at least one US senator is urging automakers to keep AM in their vehicles.

AM radio (or, as its known Europe, mediumwave or MW) is being phased out in other parts of the planet. Hell, even FM radio is being pushed aside for digital broadcasting in places like Norway and Switzerland.

So what, you say? If AM radio disappears

  • thousands of talented broadcasters will lose their jobs.
  • people who depend on the long-distance abilities of AM radio may be cut off.
  • where does current AM radio programming go? What happens to all the news, news/talk, sports, and business stations? How will that affect the coverage and dissemination of local news, sports, and weather?
  • some AM stations will be able to flip to FM. But what about regions (e.g. around the Great Lakes) where the FM spectrum is completely full? It’s possible that some music-based FM stations will be sacrificed. Or not.

Read more here.

(With files from FYIMusicNews.ca)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38165 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

3 thoughts on “More woe for the future of AM radio. How long will it survive? The clock may be ticking.

  • Pretty sure AM is already dead. It has become a wasteland of knockoff religious conmen interspersed with hate talk rabble rousers. I have had my oresent vehicle 12 years. Have never had the AM radio on except when I put in a new battery and need to reset my stations. The sooner it goes the better]

    Reply
  • What does it say when the FCC’s solution to saving AM radio is to give all AM licensees an FM frequency to simulcast on? That sounds like a phase-out plan to me. AM stations are going silent and surrendering their licenses because they can’t generate enough revenue to keep their equipment up, even as modern gear is solid state and highly efficient. And radio today doesn’t just compete with itself, there are thousands of podcasts and streaming music services online. Would it be fair to say most of us abandoned our AM/FM receivers soon after we started streaming on our smartphones? Meanwhile, “local” stations rely mostly on syndicated programs, producing little or no local content of their own (local commercials don’t count as content). I speculate if AM radio weren’t in the MW spectrum, commercial interests would have pressed the FCC to auction off those frequencies by now — but this could happen with the FM band within the next 50 years.

    Reply
  • AM is over 100 year old technology that is inefficient and a poor performer on many different fronts. It faces its own loudness war with almost no dynamic range, that makes the sound flat and unpleasant. The upper frequency response is now almost universally limited to about 5kHz, making it sound dull and killing much musical detail. And you need a substantial investment in equipment and real estate to broadcast just one channel. Running costs are high, and the station must be maintained. As businesses go, I’d be very reluctant to invest in such old and compromised technology, when so much more is possible via over the internet streaming. More and more cellular plans are including unlimited data, while both Apple and Google are simplifying the user interface between phone and car. I don’t see AM surviving in the long term.

    Reply

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