Although there have been recent challenges to traditional radio, the medium continues to show its resilience through its popularity and its value to its listeners.
As electric vehicles (EVs) have become more mainstream, many auto manufacturers have not been installing AM radios in them because they claim the electric motors can cause interference with the frequencies, leading to unwanted noises and poor reception. There has been a lot of pushback on this, including public outcry, that has caused some manufacturers, like Ford, to reverse their decisions and continue to put AM radios in their new vehicles.
Legislation was introduced in Congress earlier this year to guarantee the future of broadcast radio in automobiles. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), one of the co-sponsors of the pending AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act (S. 1669), said, “AM radio is critical for rural communities.”
Radio has also been proving its value as an indispensable public resource, especially during recent weather events, including the Maui wildfires and Hurricane Idalia, the devastating storm that hit the Gulf Coast of Florida earlier this year. According to a special report from Inside Radio, radio stations function like emergency bulletin boards for the community during a crisis. In Maui, with no power, cell service, or access to the Internet, residents were still able to receive free, over-the-air broadcast radio to help them find information, resources, and safety.
In Florida, according to the report, not only did listeners get essential emergency information during the disaster, but broadcasters also provided a friendly voice and compassionate companion for communities at a time when they really needed it.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed a program in cooperation with nearly 80 local AM radio stations across the U.S. to designate them as Primary Entry Point (PEP) radio stations that ensure that nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population can be reached in the event of an emergency. Under the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act enacted in 2015, Congress required FEMA to upgrade PEP stations across the country to ensure the continuity of terrestrial broadcast services under all hazards, from tsunamis to earthquakes to tornadoes to hurricanes.
Radio continues in popularity for general listening as well. According to a recent Edison Research Share of Ear report, 67 percent of listening time in automobiles is with AM/FM radio. Even in automobiles that have smartphone-based infotainment systems like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, 46 percent of listeners’ time is spent with AM/FM.
And Christian radio continues to grow. In August 2023, according to Inside Radio, the Religion (teaching, variety) format could be heard on the second largest number of stations across the country (behind Country) at 2,028, and Contemporary Christian ranked number 4, with 1,366 stations using that format. And these two formats, plus Spanish, are the top three radio station formats that are experiencing growth.
Christian radio listeners are very loyal to their stations. According to a recent survey, they are much more likely to recommend their station to family and friends over Public Radio or Country, and nearly double that of other commercial formats like Classic Rock, Alternative, Sports, and News-Talk. According to a recent survey from Salem Radio, 59 percent of Christian Teaching and Talk listeners have been listening for at least five years, and 94 percent of the respondents said it has improved their lives by listening.
Radio has continued to evolve to meet the needs of its audience. With radio now available streaming on smartphones and connected TVs as well as traditional over-the-air options, it continues to provide information, companionship, and inspiration to listeners across America.
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