EDITORIAL: Ramble on

Let AM sing its song

F ew music fans would disagree that Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page is one of the best to ever pick up a Gibson Les Paul, or any other guitar. James Patrick Page, OBE, makes one think of the quintessential erudite white-haired London professor. Not too long ago, he told an audience that he recognized FM radio's propensity to play entire album sides and therefore arranged Zep's songs in a way to not lose the listener's attention.

In other words, he made their music fit the platform their potential market preferred.

Today, the discussion is about AM radio. Some some see its demise--as evidenced by a number (eight to be exact) of car manufacturers who have jettisoned AM radio from their vehicles, including Ford and Tesla.

Oh no! Congress must act!

Apparently, Congress is on it. A bipartisan movement is afoot in Washington that spans both the Senate and House to save AM radio. The coalition in the Senate includes supporters as diametrically opposed on most issues as Northeastern liberal Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts to conservative Republican firebrand Ted Cruz of Texas.

On the House side, Arkansas' Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs is part of the coalition pushing the so-called "AM for Every Vehicle Act." The law would require all vehicle companies to "make all cars capable of receiving AM radio stations without any costs to consumers."

Emphasis on "make capable." That might mean that new cars would have to have the ability to provide AM, if it's later required.

Representative Westerman said, "Many Arkansans rely on AM broadcast radio for breaking news and entertainment as they make their daily commutes, especially in rural areas where constituents spend a lot of time in their vehicles. In the case of severe weather, something Arkansas is no stranger to, AM radio is critical in updating the public to assure their safety."

Proponents of the current legislation point to the essential service AM provides that "... other platforms cannot do as effectively, such as emergency alerts and news updates." This is partly because radio stations almost never go off the air because they use generators and can hold up against extreme weather.

These are all fair enough defenses of AM radio against Internet-based or digital programming like XM radio, which may not provide timely info on severe local weather, or if power is knocked out at home and the Internet goes down. And some reports say more than 80 million Americans listen to AM radio, and that's probably a lot of news programs.

Just as newspapers have a unique ability--that is, to cover local news with local reporters in a variety of beats, and cover the news with enough resources to get in-depth and investigative in those stories--so too that other medium, AM radio, has a unique ability--to provide emergency information locally, and in a couple of languages.

We're not sure how long AM radio will be a player, but as long as there are 82 million Americans listening to it, you'd think these car companies wouldn't need a push by the government to satisfy their customers.

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