On Ford Restoring & Saving AM Radio
And now, since many are still vacationing, a subject perhaps only three in a hundred care about. AM radio.
You might have heard that Ford was going to whack AM radio in their new vehicles, following companies like Tesla and (I think) BMW. Tesla, of course, produces expensive subsidized electric vehicles, which because of their innards become portable mini-broadcast stations, generating signals that can overwhelm many weak AM stations, or produce enough hash to make listening to them irritating.
So, instead of giving whiners a chance to carp that their AM reception is imperfect—people who spend that kind of money demand perfection—these companies decided silence was gold.
Nobody cared when Tesla did this, mostly because there are too few of their cars on the road. Plus their drivers are annoying in the exact same way people who use Apple products are. “I drive a Tesla,” they announce as they sidle up next to you at the urinal. Let them suffer the loss of radio.
Ford is much bigger, and the men buying F-150s aren’t interested in signaling their efforts to “save the planet”. Ford customers are small-c conservative and don’t like change for the sake of change, so when Fords said no AM radio, there was a bit of a mini-Bud Light blowback.
In short, Ford backed down, reversing their decision. Now they say they’ll offer “software updates” in the new cars which will waken the AM functionality that was already there but switched off.
The same kind of thing happened with early cellphones. FM chips were in the phones, and some carriers, like Cingular, allowed their use. Yes, you could listen to the radio on your handheld radio—most people not realizing their cellphones are radios. In time, FM functionality was purposely left off: phones with the chips were still being produced, but the FM oh-en-oh-eff-eff switch was left in the oh-eff-eff position.
Besides expense, I don’t know why this was done. Bad reception may have played a part, as with AM in cars. This might be because the corded headphones did double duty as antennas.
Point is, you can’t help feel a bit cheated that all they had to do is throw a switch they first refused to throw. Let drivers decide if they can put up with the static, not some over-trained MBA.
On the other hand, given the surfeit of asinine lawsuits brought by the ignorant and greedy, maybe they were heading off certain troubles. Now they can claim they didn’t want to turn AM on, but were made to by politicians.
Anyway, not everybody wanted AM back. Some said let it go. Which makes little sense, because if you don’t want to listen, don’t. But we live in an age of Diversity, which means strictly enforced Uniformity, and it’s difficult to suppress the urge to control.
Many against AM used as their devastating argument that the technology is over a hundred years old. That’s the It’s The Current Year Fallacy. Bicycles use even older technology and nobody is suggesting abandoning them. Bikes are like AM in another way: they are simple. Anybody can make an AM radio out of even less than a handful of parts.
This lack of technical updating grated the sensibility of some. We don’t need AM, they said, when we have satellite and streaming.
Satellite costs money. Satellite can only be used with access to clear sky, a bit like AM. And most satellite channels are boring. If people complain about Expert-created playlists over the air, it’s worse on satellite. And there is anyway only one company. Whereas, even with the foolish consolidation of radio, there is still plenty of variety.
Streaming doesn’t work that well. It often costs money. It’s difficult to use. Users have to switch from one app to another to change channels. And they rack up minutes on their data plans, which they have to pay for.
Look what happened with cable. That started relatively cheap, but grew into a behemoth, people paying hundreds a month. So they “clipped” the cable and went to streaming. Which costs for each new service, and where each has to be managed separately, and whose total cost isn’t much different.
Radio remains free.
Some thought leaving off AM was a “war” against conservative radio. They’re wrong, but I wish they were right. Have any of you ever heard Ben Shapiro’s voice? How did anybody ever think that voice should be put on the air? Then there’s Mark “Bomb ’em” Levine, and the sly genius of Sean “Repeat my new favorite word forty times a program” Hannity.
These shows blanket AM, a terrible mistake. Because they’re boring. Conservatism begins at home, and we don’t need every station yammering about national politics. And sports. Not the games themselves. The endless discussions about the games (how do people forget sports is entertainment and is not meant to be taken seriously?). Nothing is drearier than sports talk. Except maybe “contemporary” Christian music.
Fun national programs exist, like Coast to Coast, though that one requires a sense of humor, which many no longer have. Local programming can be found, but is costly. Though worth it.
Everybody has known from Day One AM does not offer perfect audio fidelity. Listeners don’t care. They listen through the static. There is therefore no technological solution to “saving” AM. Because none is needed. What will save AM is for it to stop being so dull.
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