The FCC has scheduled a Summit on the Emergency Alert System ("EAS"), to be held on May 19.  The EAS system is the alert system used by broadcasters to pass on emergency information from government officials to their listeners.  EAS replaced the Emergency Broadcast System ("EBS") and was intended to be a more reliable substitute for the system originally adopted during the Cold War to convey a Presidential message about a nuclear attack or similar emergency to the entire country.  Over the years, the system has adapted to include information about local emergencies and "amber alerts" about the kidnapping or disappearance of children.  However, especially since 9-11 and some of the hurricanes in the South, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the system, and means to make the distribution of emergency information more reliable and efficient have been sought.  The FCC currently has a rulemaking pending to determine ways in which that system can be made more efficient – a question sure to be addressed at the Summit.

In the current proceeding on reforming the EAS system, one of the questions that has been asked is how the system should be activated for non-Federal emergencies.  Obviously, the President can still activate the system for a national emergency, but how alerts about local emergencies are initiated is one of the more controversial issues in the proceeding.  Currently, there is no uniform system.  Instead, each state’s system may have different points from which an alert can be initiated.  Concerns have been raised that if the ability to initiate an alert is too broadly distributed, alerts may be initiated haphazardly, and if too many alerts are issued, the system will lose its impact and other important programming may be preempted unnecessarily.  Thus, proposals have been made that the alerts should be initiated only by a state’s Governor or his or her specifically designated representative. 


Continue Reading FCC Schedules Summit on Status of EAS

The FCC’s Emergency Alert System ("EAS") is the bane of many broadcasters.  Failing to have operational EAS equipment, or otherwise failing to comply with the requirements of the rules, including failures to conduct the mandatory tests of the system, are among the most common causes of a fine following an FCC field inspection.  To help ensure compliance with the EAS

The Commission’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Further NPRM”) regarding the next generation Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) has been published in the Federal Register, setting the date for Comments as December 3, 2007 and the date for Reply Comments as December 17, 2007.  This summer, the Commission adopted a Report and Order extending its

As we’re approaching the anniversary of September 11, it may be appropriate that the FCC issued an order on Friday upholding a fine imposed on a radio station that did not have an operating EAS system.  The station, while it had a system in place that was capable of transmitting the required EAS tones, had not received any EAS alerts for about a year, and had not entered any reasons for that failure in its station log at any time during the period.  The FCC initially issued an $8000 fine, but reduced the fine to $6400 based on a showing that the station did not have any history of past violations.  However, even though the station was operating at reduced power for a significant period of time due to towers damaged by a storm, the FCC refused to reduce the fine further based on financial hardship as the fine did not exceed 2% of the station’s average gross revenue during the previous three years.

The FCC will reduce fines for a variety of reasons – the most common being the past good record of the station.  In most cases, as here, a showing that the station has not previously been fined will be sufficient to demonstrate the past compliance of the station and justify some reduction in the amount of the fine.  Stations also often plead that they cannot afford to pay a fine.  The 2% of gross revenue standard announced by the Commission in this case seems to set the threshold at which the Commission will consider that plea.  To prove that a reduction of a fine is in order, according to this case, a station needs to submit financial statements showing the past three years performance, and demonstrating that the proposed fine will exceed 2% of the station’s average gross revenues.


Continue Reading Fine For EAS Violation – Financial Hardship Not Enough to Merit a Reduction