AM radio -- America’s oldest broadcasting service -- was dealt another blow by automaker BMW when the company decided to leave AM totally out of the car stereo that comes in the new all electric i3.
According to numerous sources, the decision was made after interference from the electric drive system made AM reception difficult. “Rather than frustrate customers with inferior reception, the decision was made to leave it off,” BMW spokesman Dave Buchko told Automotive IT News, an online industry website (AutomotiveITNews.org).
Considering that AM is alive and well on all other electric cars and hybrids from such manufacturers as General Motors, Toyota, Tesla, and Nissan, just to name a few, and I’d say it has more to do with lousy engineering on the part of BMW. We’re not talking rocket science here; to get AM reception you do need to do some work. But if you can’t shield the radio and antenna from the motor, as all other manufacturers are able to do, what else is BMW unable to do successfully on this car?
In fact, if AM reception is such a problem, does it mean the motor in the i3 emits so much interference that it will negatively affect AM reception for radios it drives near? That would be illegal and the FCC should investigate the possibility.
BMW’s continued explanation that AM is not needed because the FM radio includes HD and many AM stations are simulcast on the FM HD streams shows they know even less about broadcasting than I thought. In Los Angeles, that number is a whopping one: KNX (1070 AM), which can be found on KAMP’s (97.1 FM) HD3 stream. At one time KFWB (980 AM) was on a KCBS-FM (93.1) HD channel, but that is now gone (though it may return once KFWB goes all sports in September).
Want KFI (640 AM)? KABC (790 AM)? Sports? Live baseball? Too bad, if you own an i3.
Don’t get me wrong ... while I am an AM fan, I am not a fan of much of the current programming. But that doesn’t mean it should be kicked to the side as BMW is doing through their sloppy engineering. I’m still hoping for an AM renaissance of sorts, once the huge conglomerates go bust and have to sell their stations ... once I own my own AM station, I want people to have the ability to listen.
Step by Step
The first huge company to start unloading stations is the Walt Disney Company, which announced last week that it will sell 23 of its 24 Radio Disney AM properties beginning September 26, leaving KDIS (1110 AM) here in Los Angeles as its only AM radio outlet. The company instead will focus on internet and SiriusXM satellite radio (Channel 79) delivery.
Most observers are mourning the announcement and the loss of jobs. I see it as the first in what will hopefully be a gush of such sales on both AM and FM. Once the McOwners groups are out of the way, I hope that creativity and strong localism will return to radio. Then the number of jobs will be a net increase when formats that actually attract listeners evolve.
Hey, I can dream, can’t I?