Conservative AM Talk Radio Faces Massive, Existential Threat
In the 1980’s, after the advent of FM music radio, the AM band was a sleepy place for forgotten stations and nostalgia programming. All of that changed when the legendary Rush Limbaugh took the nation by storm and reinvented the concept of modern talk radio.
His program was primarily featured on AM radio stations across the country. Single-handedly, he revived the AM band and made it a powerful vehicle for communication.
Since Rush’s show was launched, other talk show hosts, such as Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, have enjoyed tremendous success on the AM band. Even after Rush’s death, almost all the most popular AM talk programs are hosted by conservatives.
AM radio is the one broadcasting method that liberals have not been able to dominate. Thus, the left has been scheming for ways to destroy this avenue of conservatism.
Sadly, liberals control every other type of news media: print newspapers, magazines, Internet news sites, social media platforms, cable, and broadcast television. They also control public broadcasting on radio and television.
In contrast, AM talk radio has remained a bastion of conservatism. The AM band has been my home for 24 years as the host of Ringside Politics, a talk show, on WGSO-AM in New Orleans. While WGSO streams online and on social media, connects with mobile apps and offers podcasts, AM radio is still the primary way that our station interacts with our listeners.
Our listeners enjoy AM talk radio because our shows present the other side from what they read in the newspaper or see on the evening news. AM talk radio is the much-needed ideological counterbalance in our overly progressive society today.
Because of its success, AM radio is now facing its biggest threat in its 100-year history. Several electric car manufacturers have stated that the AM band causes too much frequency “interference” with their motors. Automakers such as Ford, which accounts for 20% of likely AM radio listeners, Volvo, Tesla, BMW, Mazda, and Volkswagen have decided to exclude the band from their new vehicles.
Yet, this problem can be addressed, as noted by U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA). In a letter to constituents, he wrote, “Some electric car companies use special shielding that protects the AM radio to ensure the electric signals do not interfere with the AM radio. Some car companies have opted to not include these protections and are making their cars without AM radios.”
The automakers claim that along with the “electromagnetic interference,” AM radio is no longer needed because emergency alerts are available on other platforms such as wireless devices. They insist that listeners who want to access the AM signal can use online streaming or “HD Radio subchannels.”
Not only are these just industry excuses, they also do not explain the true reason this move is being made, which is to silence conservative voices on the AM band. If this plan is fully implemented, it will be damaging to not only conservative talk shows and AM stations, but also to millions of average Americans. According to one analysis, 82 million Americans listen to AM radio monthly, which is approximately 33% of the nation’s population.
Of the AM radio listeners, more than 50% are tuned to talk or news stations. This is the way millions of Americans receive updates on breaking news, hurricanes, storms, and other emergencies.
As stated by Cumulus Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard, “AM stations serve …unique, targeted constituencies and represent many languages and voices. As automobile manufacturers consider eliminating AM radio, it’s important to underscore that the AM dial is one of the most diverse media platforms in the world. Why would we eliminate this variety from the car?”
A good question indeed! According to Kennedy, “AM radio is commonly used during emergency situations like hurricanes to broadcast critical information. They are often the only communications equipment left when emergency situations happen in Louisiana.”
Since AM radio is providing a valuable service and is used by millions of Americans, this decision by car manufacturers reeks of political bias. Hannity labels the move “incomprehensible.” He believes the decision is a “direct hit politically on conservative talk radio in particular, which is what most people go to AM radio to listen to.”
Levin is also outraged and said, “they finally figured out how to attack conservative talk radio.” He believes the goal of this decision is to prevent the American audience who enjoy conservative talk shows “from just turning on your radio as you drive in your own local area or general area and listen to the station.”
In Levin’s view, “The automobile is essential to liberty. The automobile is about mobility. The automobile is about you being able to go where you want when you want. It’s freedom, that’s what the automobile is all about. It’s about freedom…so, the control of the automobile is about the control of your freedom.”
Not only is this decision by automakers an attack on the freedom of motorists and conservative talk radio, but it is also an attack on our nation’s economy. There are over 4,500 AM radio stations in the country which will be negatively impacted by removing a large portion of their audience.
Not surprisingly, the radio industry is alarmed by these developments and is working to organize a response. The leaders of ten state broadcasting associations have established a “Dashboard Subcommittee” within the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA). Their goal will be “to slow or stop the removal of AM radio from the dashboard.”
The National Association of Broadcasters is also getting involved. They have developed Public Service Announcements advocating for AM radio. They also created a website, Keep AM Radio in Cars, for Americans to contact their members of Congress.
If Congress puts enough pressure on automakers, AM radio can be rescued. However, to accomplish this goal, the American people must become engaged and inundate Congress. No more delay, to save AM radio, the time to act is now.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award-winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs Saturdays from Noon until 1 p.m. CT nationally on Real America’s Voice TV Network & AmericasVoice.News and weekdays from 7-11 a.m. CT on WGSO 990-AM & Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America’s Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on Crouere.net. For more information, email him at [email protected].