Sen. Cruz: We Can’t Let Big Auto Kill Life-Saving AM Radio

December 5, 2023

Passage of popular bipartisan AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act blocked by Sen. Rand Paul


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today took to the Senate floor requesting unanimous consent to pass his bipartisan, bicameral AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act. The legislation, which he introduced with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), would require automakers to keep AM broadcast radio in vehicles, a tool critical to keeping the American public safe in times of emergency.

The bill, which was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this year, was on the verge of Senate passage before being objected to by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).


Sen. Cruz’s remarks as delivered are available below:

I rise today in support of free speech, and in support of AM Radio. It is widely enjoyed by Americans across the country. Over 80 million Americans listen to AM radio every month. They rely on it.  

And, yet, earlier this year, we saw eight major automakers announce that they were stripping AM radio from new cars and trucks, taking away the option of AM radio for consumers. That decision, I believe, was a serious mistake. A mistake that would hurt Texans and that would hurt Americans in all 50 states. 

As a result, I joined with my colleague, the Senator from Massachusetts, Ed Markey, in introducing legislation, AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act. I would note that Senator Markey is one of, if not the most liberal senator in this chamber, and I am one of, if not the most conservative Senator in this chamber. I don’t recall another bill where we have joined forces, and it speaks to the power of this issue that you see such deep agreement across ideological lines.  

When Senator Markey and I introduced that legislation, within days, one of the eight major car companies, Ford Motor Company, reversed course and announced they would now include AM radios on new cars and trucks. I think they viewed this coalition as a sign of the apocalypse.

 I would note that this bill has overwhelming bipartisan support. It has 44 cosponsors, 22 Democrats and 22 Republicans.

When we took it up in the Commerce Committee, it passed out of the Commerce Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support. And why is that? Because on the merits, this bill is the right thing to do for the American people.  

Number one, in times of disaster, AM radio is the single most reliable medium for communicating about a natural disaster. I remember when Hurricane Harvey hit my home city of Houston and the entire Texas Gulf Coast. The enormous challenges. People relied on AM radio when other forms of communications go down, AM radio is consistently the most resilient to help people get out of harm’s way, whether it is getting out of the way of a hurricane or getting out of the way of a tornado or getting out of the way of a forest fire or any other disaster, AM radio is there to help people know where to go and how to keep their families alive.  

But secondly, AM radio is particularly important for rural America. Texas has enormous quantities of our state that is rural. And in rural America there are many parts of Texas, many parts of other states where farmers and ranchers, the only thing they can get is AM radio. And when they’re out on their farms or ranches, they rely on AM radio for weather reports, crop reports, for news, sports, and entertainment.  

Taking away the option for rural America of AM radio is bad, bad for farmers and ranchers in America, but number three, diversity.  

AM radio promotes a diversity of views. Why? Because the barriers of entry to getting into AM radio are relatively low. To start an FM station is quite expensive. An AM station is much cheaper to start and to operate and as a consequence, we see a beautiful array of diversity of views reflected on AM radio nationally... 

… And, I would note that one aspect of AM radio is particularly important to Texans and to the citizens of Kentucky and the people all across this country, which is that AM radio is a haven for free speech. AM radio is a haven for people to speak, even if their views are disfavored by the political ruling class. Talk radio is an oasis for conservative speech. Rush Limbaugh would not exist without AM radio. The views of my friend, the Senator from Kentucky, would be heard by many fewer people without AM radio. Whether Mark Levin or Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck, allowing free speech is important. 

I believe these automakers stood up to remove AM radio as part of a broader pattern we see of censoring views that are disfavored by Big Business. 

I think this is consistent with what Big Tech has done, silencing views they disagree with. And so this bill is all about preserving consumer choice—letting consumers decide. If you don’t want to listen to AM radio, turn it off. But you know what? If the automakers all come together and say, 'you can’t turn it on because we’re not going to put it in your car, we’re not going to put it in your truck, you don’t have the right to choose what you will listen to.’ 

I think that’s profoundly harmful for our country and profoundly harmful for free speech. And so I hope this body can actually act in support of Americans in harm’s way in a disaster, and support of farmers and ranchers who rely on AM radio, and in support of a diversity of views speaking online, and in support of free speech for whatever your views whether they’re Right-wing, Left-wing, or no wings at all, AM radio lets people speak and make the case in John Stuart Mill’s marketplace of ideas.

The AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act would:

  • Direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue a rule that requires automakers to maintain AM broadcast radio in their vehicles without a separate or additional payment, fee, or surcharge beyond the base price of the device;
  • Require any automaker that sells vehicles without access to AM broadcast radio before the effective date of the NHTSA regulation to clearly disclose to consumers that the vehicle lacks access to AM broadcast radio; and
  • Direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the reach and effectiveness of AM broadcast radio for alerting the public to emergencies relative to other technologies.

The AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act is supported by the AARP, National Association of Broadcasting, All 50 State Broadcasting Associations, National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, National Religious Broadcasters, Big City Emergency Managers, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Emergency Management Association, International Association of Emergency Managers, IHeart Media, National Association of Counties, National Hispanic Media Connection, Screen Actors Guild-American Foundation for Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), Independent Beef Association of North Dakota, Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas, Latino Farmers & Ranchers International, Inc., Livestock Marketing Association, National Grange, National Farmers Union, North Dakota Farmers Union, Rural & Agriculture Council of America, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, ALLvanza, National Urban League, OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, National Association of Farm Broadcasting, Texas Farm Bureau, Cox Media Group, Salem Radio Group, Bryan Broadcasting.