EASTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s local, it’s live, and it’s a bit of a throwback to the old days of AM radio when station programmers knew their community.
“In this garage sale season we’re in, we’re asking what the holy grail is you found at a sale?” WION owner and mid-day co-host Jim Carlyle asked his listeners Tuesday, leaning into the microphone at the radio station near Ionia.
While the approach is old-school, technology has made WION more responsive. Carlyle and his co-host Justin take requests via text.
And WION 1430 AM Stereo‘s J&J Mid-Day show probably won’t raise listeners’ blood pressure. Politics seldom enters the conversation.
“When it comes down to it, they want local. They’re not denied what’s happening in the world during the daytime, because we have that news, but they’re also not denied having company during the daytime that we try to give,” Carlyle said.
He bought the station 18 years ago.
“We are in here during bad storms. We are in here for delays. We are in here talking about the Memorial Day Parade or whatever else is coming up,” Carlyle said. “We get texts from people who are just out of high school, we get emails from people who are senior citizens and everybody in between.”
But there is concern from Carlyle and others in the AM radio industry that a large portion of their audience may not have access to their signal in the future. Ford Motor Co., along with several foreign automakers, have decided they will no longer include the AM radio band in their entertainment clusters.
Some of it has to do with the future: Interference from EV motors on AM signals is part of what’s driving the decision. Automakers also claim AM receivers are obsolete because those same AM stations can be streamed.
“The argument that there is streaming of stations, we stream worldwide, doesn’t work, because there’s an awful lot of places that don’t have good cell signal,” Carlyle said.
AM supporters say they’ve gotten some attention from Congress on the issue, but they believe public pressure on automakers is the key to winning their battle. The Save AM Radio campaign is part of that push.
The campaign points out a concern that removing AM receivers from vehicles could impact public safety warnings. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Public Warning System is broadcast through AM signals.
“They’re wanting to take just take the choice away. We think that’s wrong. I think that’s wrong,” Brian Winnekins said.
Winnekins splits his radio work between WION and his home station, WRDN in Durand, Wisconsin. He thinks removing AM radios is another way for automakers to increase income from subscription services.
“They don’t get that with a free alternative in that vehicle,” Winnekins said.
As for claims the radio frequency signals generated by EVs cause interference with the vehicles AM radios, Winnekins says if that’s true, the problem extends beyond the EV itself.
“If the Ford EV F-150 Lightning can’t have AM in it because the electric motor causes RF interference and wipes out the AM band, well, it stands to reason that RF interference doesn’t stop at the tailgate of that F-150 Lightning,” he said.