Lummis, Barrasso Sponsor Bill To Save AM Radio As Vital For Rural States

Many car manufacturers have not been putting AM radio in their new cars. But Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis say AM radio is still critical for people in rural states so they've co-sponsored legislation that would require automakers to keep it.

Leo Wolfson

May 09, 20245 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

AM radio stations are often some of the only signals that reach Wyoming’s most rural areas, providing vital information on emergencies, weather, news and sports.

U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis are doing their best to keep AM radio in the mix in an exploding world of digital communication, co-sponsoring federal legislation that would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require automakers to keep AM radio receivers in their new vehicles.

“We want to make sure that people, especially in rural areas, have access to AM radio in new vehicles without having to pay a fee or upcharge for that,” Lummis told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

The AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act bill would:

  • Direct the NHTSA to require automakers to maintain AM broadcast radio in their vehicles without a separate or additional payment, fee or surcharge.

  • Require any automaker that sells vehicles without access to AM broadcast radio before the effective date of the NHTSA regulation to clearly disclose to consumers that the vehicle lacks access to AM radio.

  • Direct the Government Accountability Office to study whether alternative communication systems could fully replicate the reach and effectiveness of AM broadcast radio for alerting the public to emergencies.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has bipartisan support in Congress from 60 senators and 246 members of the House. Because of this, Lummis believes it has a real chance of passing later this year.

“I think it’s very much more important to those of us that have large rural areas in their states,” she said.

She said any bill that doesn’t have bipartisan support in this year’s election season will likely fail.

“The deeper we get into this calendar year, the more politics is going to take over the legislative process,” she said. “Things that are not bipartisan are just not going to happen. This one could go the distance.”

What’s Causing The Need?

Many car manufacturers have been opting to not put AM radio in their new electric vehicles, citing poor quality performance because of the electrical systems of the EVs. Because of the current that drives the vehicle’s motor, it can create an unwanted hum or whine on the AM band.

According to technology news site IEE Spectrum, Volkswagen has stated that incorporating the changes needed to shield the AM radio from the current will result in extra weight that drags down an electric vehicle’s power range. The somewhat limited power range in electric vehicles has been one of the major hesitations expressed by people about these vehicles.

AM radio phaseouts in new vehicles have been happening since 2014, and the trend has accelerated. A 2023 survey of 20 car manufacturers found that eight had removed AM radio from all their EVs.

AM radio remains widely used in many parts of the world and in the United States, and still plays a significant role in both day-to-day life and emergency communications for hundreds of millions of people. It’s particularly vital in many rural Wyoming communities, when considering the majority of news and weather stations live on the AM dial.

Although younger people are moving away from AM radio and radio as a whole, it’s still used by many older Wyoming residents. Many of these people rely on AM radio to get their news, road and weather info, based on Wyoming Department of Transportation surveys studying local AM use.

“Predominantly, the audience using those, as near as we could tell, are actually our older residents. And they actually listen to those radios in their homes in order to make their decision about traveling, before they leave the house,” Wyoming Department of Transportation Public Affairs Officer Doug McGee told Cowboy State Daily in 2023.

EVs Killed The AM Radio Star?

Even though electric vehicles are not owned by many Wyoming residents, their increasing share of the automotive marketplace and presence in the state has grown noticeably over the last decade. This trend will likely continue due major automaker’s commitment to producing these vehicles and government regulations and subsidies encouraging their production.

“We want to make sure that since this (presidential) administration is pushing electric vehicles like crazy on everyone including people in rural areas that they still have access to AM radio,” Lummis said.

Lummis said the EV mandates create an inherent threat to small independent radio stations that may go out of business when their audience sizes shrink or disappear. Many provide the only live coverage for local youth sports.

She said the station owners she’s spoken to in Wyoming are very supportive of the bill, as is the National Association of Broadcasters.

“Radio station owners around the country have been reaching out to their senators and representatives to try and explain the importance of this bill,” she said.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter