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News Brief

Jan. 1, 2024 |  By: Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

Requiring AM radio in vehicles benefits rural Nebraskans


By Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

The passage of a bipartisan, bicameral bill in the U.S. Congress would be very beneficial to people in rural parts of Nebraska. It could also make electric vehicles more attractive.

After several automakers started omitting AM radios, especially in their electric vehicles, the AM for Every Vehicle Act was introduced. It would require automakers to keep AM radios in vehicles at no additional cost.

Several of the 15 stations of the Nebraska Rural Radio Association's Rural Radio Network broadcast on the AM band.

Ben Steffen, chairman of the Nebraska Rural Radio Association, said assuming that AM radio is no longer needed because of streaming and satellite radio ignores the diversity of audiences and the needs of communities.

"In rural areas, it's frequently the case that cell signals drop in and out, so streaming is highly erratic. And local AM radio stations carrying local news, local content and local weather conditions and emergency response information are just critical," he said.

Steffen added "rising to the top" of the important roles AM stations play is getting the word out during weather emergencies. He explained the broad reach and robust nature of AM signals make AM radio crucial at such times. In fact, it was a blizzard in the 1950s that led to the formation of the Nebraska Rural Radio Association.

He said there are "countless cases" in the Nebraska Rural Radio Association's history where they've offered live coverage of emergency weather events.

"And part of the reason it's so important in vehicles is that people who are traveling instantly can access that kind of local information when they're in vehicles and in tractors and farm equipment. People understand that AM radio can bring local news and local conditions," he continued.

John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, said the Nebraska Rural Radio Association is the largest farm-owned radio network in the country. And it has the largest AM farm radio station in the nation, KRVN.

"And so, we're very much in support of efforts to make sure that our farmers, ranchers and the population as a whole continues to have access to good-quality AM equipment, so that they can listen to radio stations -- which are an important part of the press network," Hansen said.

As of September, 150 members of the House and 34 members of the Senate had co-sponsored
the AM for Every Vehicle Act.