Late last year, the FCC announced that it would be opening the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) for the filing of ETRS Form One by February 28, 2023. This week, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing that that system has in fact been opened, and telling broadcasters that they can now file the required information. As made clear in the Public Notice, virtually all broadcasters need to file. This includes LPTV (with minor exceptions) and LPFM stations. Class D FM stations, exempt from some other FCC regulations, and silent stations also need to file. Only FM boosters and translators, and other broadcast stations (including LPTVs) that rebroadcast 100% of the programming of a “hub station” where that hub station provides a common studio or control point for all stations, do not need to file this report as long as the “hub station” files the form. So the requirement is very inclusive.
ETRS Form One provides basic information about EAS participants to the FCC. The form requests basic information about contact persons at a station, the model of EAS equipment used, and monitoring assignments under the legacy EAS system. If nothing has changed from prior Form One filings, the Public Notice says that the system provides a way to populate the form with all the information from prior filings so that it does not need to be manually re-entered (although anecdotally we have heard that even minor changes, such as a call sign change, may be problematic). This is the first of three forms filed in connection with Nationwide EAS tests, testing the ability of the EAS system to distribute a Presidential emergency alert to the entire country. Form Two reports on the day of the test as to whether the alert was received by a station, while Form Three is submitted after the test to provide information as to what happened during the test.
While a national EAS test date has not yet been announced, a test is anticipated later this year because no such test was held in 2022. As we noted last year when the FCC released the results of the 2021 Nationwide EAS Test, the FCC has been tracking which stations have been making the required filings after the test. The FCC noted that significant numbers of broadcasters in particular segments of the industry, particularly LPFM and LPTV stations, did not file the required reports. While no fines have been issued yet to stations that did not file the required reports, the FCC notices have seemingly been more insistent about the mandatory nature of the filing of these forms, so the absence of fines may well change in the future. So pay heed to this deadline, and file the ETRS Form One by the end of February.