May 29, 2024

Why Saving AM Radio Is Redundant in the Age of Modern Technology | American Enterprise Institute

In an age where technology evolves at an unprecedented pace, it’s hard to justify clinging to outdated modes of communication, especially when superior alternatives exist. This brings us to the current debate around the “AM in Every Vehicle Act,” a legislative effort to mandate the inclusion of AM radio in all new car models. This move echoes the misplaced efforts to save the Airfone—those clunky seat-back phones on planes—which became obsolete once Wi-Fi provided a more efficient communication solution.

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The push to legislate the survival of AM radio in vehicles fails to understand the natural evolution of technology and market preferences. Here’s why the notion of saving AM radio might not just be outdated but also impractical:

Technological Interference: Modern electric vehicles (EVs), like those from Tesla and BMW, report that AM signals interfere with their electric engines. Forcing these manufacturers to include AM radio could compromise vehicle performance or lead to increased costs as they engineer around the interference.

Changing Consumer Habits: The majority of Americans now access music, news, and other forms of entertainment via streaming services and FM radio. The need for AM radio has dramatically decreased, with many users preferring the higher quality and greater variety offered by modern technologies.

Redundancy in Emergency Communications: While AM radio was once crucial for disseminating information during emergencies, today’s mobile devices and emergency alert systems have taken over this role, providing real-time updates and alerts directly to individuals, regardless of their location.

Then there is basic politics: Are politicians really worried that AM radio is their last realm of maintaining a platform for conservative talk radio? The initiative to save AM radio seems politically charged, with proponents thinking AM radio is the communication pipeline to the senior demographic. However, the argument that the government should not pick winners and losers in the marketplace—a principle traditionally upheld by many in Congress—undermines legislative effort.

The market has been clear in its shift away from AM radio, just as it moved past the Airfone. The reasons for the decline of AM radio are rooted in natural market shifts towards more efficient, modern solutions that better meet consumer demands.

It’s essential to understand that progress means moving forward, not clinging to the past out of nostalgia or political motives. While AM radio has played a significant historical role, its future should be determined by market forces rather than legislative mandates. Like the aviation industry’s Airfone, which was eventually phased out to make way for better technology, AM radio should also be allowed to evolve naturally or be replaced by superior communication forms.

The push to preserve AM radio, although understandable from a nostalgic viewpoint, does not justify halting technological advancement or ignoring consumer preferences. The debate over AM radio in cars reflects a broader discussion about how we adapt to technological changes and the role of government in regulating industries facing inevitable evolution. As we’ve seen in other sectors, when technology moves forward, it’s best to embrace the change rather than resist it.

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