Let’s talk about radio for a moment. This is more of, oh, an editorial commentary, let’s call it. Oh, all right, it’s a flat out rant, okay? So feel free to skip this one.
Of late I’ve been seeing articles popping up in the media claiming that AM broadcast radio is going to come to an end, not based on any real information but almost entirely because that Ford and several European car makers are no longer putting AM radios in some of their vehicles, especially EVs. The car makers are claiming that it’s difficult, even impossible, to put an AM radio in an EV because of electrical interference caused by the motors and electronics in the EV. And the media apparently believes that the only time people ever listen to AM radio is while they’re in their cars.
And pretty much everything in that statement is a lie.
First of all, do EVs cause so much RFI (radio frequency interference) that it is impossible for an AM radio to work? No. I’ve been in a half dozen different EVs in the last few years and none of them caused enough RFI to kill AM radio reception. Not one. Can they cause interference? Absolutely. But only if they are poorly designed and poorly shielded. In fact, it would actually be illegal for an EV to cause enough interference to be significant. FCC regulations state that consumer products cannot cause significant interference to broadcast band radio, television, and other forms of communications, and I would imagine that prohibition would include vehicles as well.
So why are car makers claiming otherwise so they can eliminate AM radio? Money, of course. Not putting AM reception capabilities in their cars saves them a couple of bucks per car. Not much. The amount per car is insignificant. But when you multiply that by the tens of millions of cars the manufacturers crank out it adds up to a significant amount of money. And if they don’t have to put AM radios into cars, it means they don’t have to be so careful about shielding and design engineering to avoid RFI and that increases their profits even more.
And as for AM radio in general, is it coming to an end? Well, maybe?
Let’s face it, AM radio’s audience share has been shrinking for decades already, and for good reason. It is relatively short range, it is subject to considerable interference from electrical storms, electrical equipment, badly designed solar power systems and a host of other sources. The sound quality is terrible. Etc. Etc. Etc. Almost as soon as FM radio with it’s much, much better sound quality and less problems with interference hit the market, people began abandoning AM radio in droves.
And as listenership dwindled, the quality of the programming on AM dwindled as well as station owners scrambled to try to maintain profitability. Broadcasting music is expensive because of licensing fees and other reasons. So many of them switched to all talk formats. Talk, as they say, is cheap. At least it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than music. And as the stations struggled to keep the lights on, the quality of the programming not only dwindled, so did the quality of the advertising, until a lot of AM radio stations now are the home to every scam, fake health care product and phoney investment scam imaginable.
The ever increasingly shrill and even extremist rantings of AM talk radio, together with showering the listeners with ads for vitamin scams, herbal “supplements” that will cure your nose hemorrhoids or whatever, has done more to push AM radio listeners away than removing AM radios from cars will ever push away.
Recent surveys of radio listeners indicate that less than 20% of them ever listen to AM broadcast radio any longer. The remaining audience seems to be largely made up of disgruntled, angry and very, very old white people. Not exactly a prime demographic for advertisers. Well, except for funeral homes, assisted living apartments and hemorrhoid cream, I suppose.
And, of course, the politicians are starting to get involved. In their never ending attempts to divert attention from the fact that they are doing nothing to solve our real problems like mass shootings, drug overdoses, etc. some politicians are climbing onto this bandwagon now and blustering and bloviating about how horrible it is AM radio is dying and how important it is and maybe they should do something about it. Only they won’t, of course. The average politician over in DC or in your state capital is far too busy trying to line up more
bribes campaign contributions from special interest groups to have the time to actually do anything to solve the real problems out here in the real world.
Is AM radio dying? Probably. But what’s killing it off isn’t car makers. It’s dying by suicide. Instead of trying to attract new listeners it’s been desperately grasping at an ever shrinking market, a demographic that is slowly dying off from old age. Instead of developing new, relevant programming it’s been slowly being sucked down the sink hole of faked outrage and extremism and conspiracy theories being pushed by ever increasingly shrill and angry voices. It’s embraced shady advertisers and outright scammers.
AM radio sold its soul long ago and now the Devil has come calling to collect.
3 thoughts on “Is AM Radio Coming To An End? (Warning, this turns into a rant pretty fast.)”
I am glad you brought the radio thing up because you are totally correct in everything that you wrote here …I never listen to radio anymore… If I want music, I stream it or get it from some other convenient little device where I do not have to listen to commercials until my private parts grow cold and numb.
While I am on this subject, I would like to add something…..I am waiting patiently for the same thing to happen to that useless trash that calls itself “American Public Broadcasting.” All I ever seem to hear on “Public” broadcasting anymore is a lot of people with heavy British accents talking about stuff that I believe they have no inkling of knowledge about …a lot of commercials where no commercials should even be …and a lot of small-time talking heads trying to sound knowledgeable and professional as they sit on their little seats in front of their microphones and read all the questions and answers they broadcast over the airwaves from a script –some of those oddballs could not possibly be as smart and current on every detail of everything they are pretending to know about ….And to make matters worse, all the “News” I seem to be able to get on AMERICAN Public Broadcasting is coming from the BRITISH BROADCASTING COMPANY (BBC) — and it is disgusting to me ….I cannot wait for the demise of Public Broadcasting — or at least, a return to what it was originally designed to be.
Oh lord, don’t get me started on the so-called public broadcasting system. As you say it has largely turned into drivel or material bought from other sources like the BBC. I used to be a strong supporter of Wisconsin Public Radio. It used to be excellent with actual news programming, in depth interviews with people who actually mattered, holding politician’s feet to the fire to get real answers out of them, not the garbage they usually spout. But in the last 10 years or so in an effort to “expand the audience” it’s descended into the same crap that’s afflicting other forms of media in the US. They’ve dumbed down the content. shoveled endless celebrity interviews into what used to be actual informational programs and generally started to avoid anything even remotely controversial or important. It’s all being done to make their content more appealing to advertisers, I suppose.
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They were originally designed to be a taxpayer-supported entity and there were no commercials .. they are doing commercials noaways and calling them “Public Service Announcements.”
Do you remember the days when anyone with some kind of talent could get a program on one of the local Pubic Broadcasting stations? I do.
Have you ever had to sit through the boredom of things like the program called “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell me” or “The Book Nook?”
I think we are feeling a mutual pain right here.
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