AM radio is vital to rural Minnesotans
There are 4,000 AM radio stations across the country — and over 300 of those stations are right here in Minnesota. Listeners turn to AM radio for everything from high school scores to crop reports to news and weather. In fact, during a weather emergency like a wildfire or a tornado, AM radio can serve as a lifeline, sharing critical and sometimes lifesaving information.
Despite this, AM radio is on the chopping block. Auto executives have threatened to pull AM radio out of newer models of some of their vehicles. Maybe from their headquarters it doesn’t seem like people care about AM radio anymore, but I bet if they took a drive through rural Minnesota, they would take a different view.
I was at Farmfest in Redwood County, and the people I talked to agreed: AM radio is critical for rural communities.
AM radio is also critical for public safety. Seven former FEMA administrators from the Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations have spoken out about the safety risks of eliminating AM radio from cars. They explained that the National Public Warning System relies on AM radio to deliver emergency messages to the entire country at once. In times of emergency or severe climate conditions, the car is sometimes the only source of power and news for many.
Phasing AM radio out of cars would mean this public safety system will no longer function as intended.
Across Minnesota we see just how vital this system is. Stations from KASM in Albany to KWAD in Wadena regularly broadcast tornado alerts, snow alerts, information about power outages, and more to their communities. And when there was flooding in Crookston in 2021 and 2022, KROX radio was there to help — working in partnership with the city’s Emergency Operations Center to share the latest about the flooding, including information about road closures and the opening of a storm shelter where residents could turn for assistance.
This is what AM radio does day in and day out for its communities, and it is why I am fighting to pass the bipartisan AM for Every Vehicle Act. This legislation would ensure that AM radio continues to be available in vehicles at no extra charge for those who want it during their daily commutes or their long-distance drives.
We have a broad, bipartisan group of senators backing this bill that includes everyone from Ted Cruz to Bernie Sanders and it is also endorsed by the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, and several members of the Federal Communications Commission. This is the kind of coalition that gets results, and the good news is that this bill already easily passed through the Senate Commerce Committee.
I am committed to working across the aisle to ensure that drivers can tune in to AM radio for the sports and entertainment they like as well as the traffic, weather, and safety updates they need. This benefits truckers, farmers, and commuters while offering stability to the thousands of AM radio stations we don’t want to live without. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice safety, news, and a way of life simply because some car manufacturers want to make more profits. Let’s get this passed.
Amy Klobuchar is the senior senator from Minnesota in the U.S. Senate.