May 21, 2024

Rural Issues: Rural America still relies on AM radio

As I flip the page on the calendar from March to April, I find myself just one year away from my fourth decade in the radio business. I will never forget that first day at WJIL AM radio in Jacksonville in west-central Illinois on April 1, 1985.

It was only the second time I had been inside a radio station. The first had been just a few days earlier when I had interviewed for the job. Before the day’s end, I was hooked.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Like many of you, local radio is the soundtrack of my life. News, weather, sports, obituaries, school lunch menus, agricultural information, trading post, school activities, all the community information that you could want or need, music and advertisements from all the local businesses keep us all informed.

And in the case of an emergency — tornado, hail, snowstorm, fire, traffic, you name it — local radio stations have been keeping us aware, safe and connected for decades.

The role that AM radio plays in the Emergency Alert System, informing Americans of impending danger and directing people to safety, is of paramount importance.

For those in rural areas especially, where there is poor or nonexistent cell service and broadband coverage, AM radio is there.

According to the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, the Federal Emergency Management Agency stated the success of the national public warning system hinges on the use of AM radio due to the distances its signal carries and its resiliency during catastrophic events.

Some may argue that with satellite radio, podcasts, YouTube and music streaming services, local radio is no longer relevant.

It was television and records, then 8-track tapes, cassettes and CDs that some believed would be the death of radio. It did not happen then, and it is not happening now.

People go a lot of places to get information and to be entertained, but research shows repeatedly that they are not giving up the local radio stations they have come to rely on and trust like generations before them.

Despite AM radio’s continued popularity, some automakers stopped putting it in the dashboard of new vehicles a couple of years ago.

As more electric vehicles are rolled out to meet growing clean energy demands, the availability of AM radio is declining or being eliminated altogether.

Why? Automakers say that in EVs, there is an electromagnetic interference that causes static and limited coverage with AM radio.

Although a software update that will fix the issue exists, some automakers refuse to keep free, local radio in the vehicles they build and sell.

In the past 40 years, technology has brought many changes to those of us who live and work in rural America.

Consider the advancements we have seen in medicine, transportation, education and communications. I am not suggesting that technology is bad.

I have absolutely no use for an electric vehicle, but some do. Some may not want nor need AM radio, but I do.

Local radio has growing support in Washington. The proposed AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act is gaining momentum.

If passed, the proposed legislation would direct the Department of Transportation to issue a rule that requires AM broadcast stations be accessible in all passenger motor vehicles manufactured in, imported to, or shipped within the United States.

Thanks for listening.

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.