Automakers are considering removing AM radio from new cars and media observers say it could eventually spell doom for AM broadcasts as a whole. Automakers removing it include Ford, Mazda, Volkswagen, BMW, and Tesla.
The issue is just one challenge garnering attention among religious broadcasters. AM radio remains a top choice for non-music Christian broadcasters to reach the public with Bible teachings and news. Overall, there are almost 4,500 AM stations across the country. And it’s not just middle age and older American listening to it. More than 1 in 10 young adults between 18 and 29 tune into AM religious broadcasts each month on average.
“I think that this is a matter of automakers eager to monetize what’s in the dashboard,” says Noelle Garnier, policy strategist for the National Religious Broadcasters organization, an industry powerhouse advocating on behalf of Christian media.
“AM radio usage has dwindled,” Garnier acknowledges. “Fewer people are listening to AM than back in the day, of course, but the truth is, there are many parts of this country that still utilize AM radio very heavily.”
She says that more than 120 AM stations are currently NRB members and hundreds more are affiliated through a member network.
That is just one topic on the minds of the nation’s Christian broadcast media outlets, most of whom are members of the National Religious Broadcasters. The group is a powerful voice for Christian media nearly eight decades after its founding. “For 79 years, we’ve been advocating on behalf of Christian communicators to be in the public square,” Tony Miller, president and CEO of NRB says.
The annual NRB Convention attracts presidential candidates as well as media and ministry organizations from across the world. It’s a massive informational gathering tackling issues important to the broader Christian community. From ministry to issues affecting the broader society, NRB leaves no communications stone unturned. Miller also spoke about the current state of culture and believers’ role in presidential politics, saying he expects evangelicals to play a substantial role in the 2024 election.
“As close as the elections have been over the last several cycles, evangelicals could swing the vote one way or the other,” he said. “I think Christians are, even since that last election, even more keyed up to the issues that are important to them. Christians are really concerned about what’s going on today in the culture. So I think we’re going to see a heavy Christian turnout.”
Eben Fowler is Vice President of Operations for Bott Radio Network (an NRB member), based in Overland Park, Kan. He says the frequency’s importance has national security implications. Because many AM radio stations have large coverage regions, they are equipped for a natural disaster. “They are hardened to be less susceptible to an EMP attack and they can stay on the air in case other telecommunications are down. They’re old school in a good sense and because of the nature of the AM station at night, its signal carries much further than an FM station,” Fowler told Metro Voice News.
He says there are numerous reasons to keep AM.
“AM radio is an important medium– one of a number of media for Bible teaching, news, weather alerts,” says Eben Fowler with Bott Radio Network. “To remove that choice doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Recently, the NRB board approved a resolution affirming a biblical view on gender, something Miller said is important today.
“It’s also a big topic that’s getting many Christian communicators canceled on social media platforms,” he said. “If you stand up for the biblical view of a male and a female, or the biblical view of marriage between a man and a woman, you’re most likely going to get censored on social media today.”
Miller said he believes the organization’s existence and work are especially pertinent considering America’s culture and political circumstances.
“In a dark world, you need light, and people are looking for hope,” he said. “And NRB members are the members providing that hope. We are out there fighting so that our ministries can stay in that public sector, doing what God’s called them to do.”
As for the disappearance of AM radio, a bi-partisan effort is lining up in Congress to save it. Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) have put forth the AM Radio in Every Vehicle Act, which would require automakers to offer it free of charge in their new cars and trucks.
Garnier urges people to “call your representatives, both in the House and the Senate, and encourage them to cosponsor the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act.”
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice