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Could Tesla Drive More AM Stations to the FM Band?

Interference is causing electric car manufacturers to drop AM from the dashboard…

No static at all. No AM radio at all.

By Paul Marszalek

Almost no one believes that AM Radio is long for this world. At least not in its current analog form.

For the last 25 years, major radio companies, programming networks, and religious broadcasters have largely turned the dial into a neighborhood full of whack-jobs and fire-and-brimstone hatemongers.

It’s no surprise that attractive advertising demographics ran away.

It’s too bad, because despite the poor quality sound, AM radio can still pull in large audiences with great programming – witness Audacy’s CBS News stations and innumerable sports stations from several companies. New York’s newsers cume more than 1 million people each week, and their LA and SF counterparts both rake in hundreds of thousands of listeners.

So while corporate radio is busy being its own worst enemy, there may be an existential threat coming from outside: Tesla.

And Mercedes, and BMW, Porsche, Volvo, and, frankly, just about anyone manufacturing an electric vehicle.

The problem is not a new one. We’re all familiar with the crackle of lightning while listening to a ballgame with stormy weather moving in.

Electrical interference is death the AM listening experience, and nothing creates electrical interference quite like 400+kw electric motor.

So while Ford’s Mustang still has an AM receiver (and a warning about how poor it will sound), most other manufacturers have simply punted.

Only 5% of new cars sold in the U.S. are EVs, but every year that means more than a half million more are in the hands of drivers. Pretty soon that’s going to be a real number – and it won’t take much for media buyers to turn this into yet another excuse to proclaim radio dead, and leave it off the buy.

So how might this affect the rest of us?

AM stations that are well programmed and still going strong are going to need to find another home. A push for dashboard streaming will be part of the mix. Perhaps a renewed push for HD2 awareness may help.

However, don’t be surprised to see that search for a new home resulting in the killing off of an ailing FM music station. Numerous talkers have made the move to FM, Chicago’s WBBM newser has an FM simulcast, and we lost Triple A KFOG when it became an FM translator for sports sister-station KNBR.

More to come?

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One comment

  1. As a Tesla driver for more than four years now, I believe it’s not just AM, but FM as well that is losing listenership. Instead of tuning-in the local classical station, I just touch the icon for Radio Klassisk in Copenhagen, Denmark, streaming in quality that far betters FM. Any station on TuneIn is just a tap away. As are Tidal, Slacker, or Spotify. And when parked, there’s Youtube, Netflix, Twitch, gaming, etc. So FM?

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