Several years ago, the FCC mandated that broadcasters utilize not only the traditional over-the-air “daisy-chain” broadcast EAS alerting system where emergency alerts are passed from one station to another but also utilize an Internet-based Common Alerting Protocol (“CAP”) system where warnings can be sent directly to stations (see, for example, our articles here and
With very limited exceptions, all broadcast stations are required to participate in Emergency Alert System, and to transmit any alerts that they may receive during their hours of operation. The FCC has just proposed to issue an $8000 fine to a station that allegedly had a working EAS receiver (unlike some of the stations we have…
The conversion of EAS alerts from text to speech by broadcast stations and cable systems, through systems contained in the stations and systems EAS equipment, was prohibited in the FCC’s Fifth Report and Order (summarized here) implementing the rules for the technology for the Common Alerting Protocol – the Internet-based alert system that must be…
Now that we’ve completed last week’s first-ever Nationwide test of the EAS system, designed to alert Americans in the event of an emergency, the FCC is in the process of collecting information about the successes and failures of the test, through the submissions of participants. Forms reporting on the results of the test are due by December 27. At the same time, there has been at least one Congressional call for an expansion of the system in order to provide alerts not only by broadcast, cable and direct broadcast satellite systems, but also through on-line social networking communications tools.
According to press reports (see, e.g. this article from the NY Times), the nationwide test uncovered many shortcomings in the system, as many broadcast stations (including all stations in two states) never received the alerts from the station that they were monitoring, in some cases because the message was never delivered to primary stations which were supposed to start the relay of the message to other stations along the daisy-chain system that is supposed to be in place. Cable and satellite also had many problems. Despite the fact that there may have been issues at your station or in your area, all participants should report on how their facilities fared in the test. The FCC will take this information to assess what needs to be done to repair the problems that were witnesses. The necessary Forms to report on the results of the test are available on the FCC’s website. In adopting the rules for the test, the FCC stated that it was not intending that the reporting system be a way to punish stations whose facilities did not receive or transmit the test, but instead to be a diagnostic tool to determine whether or not the system worked. So the failure to file the forms to report on the success of the test on your stations is much more likely to bring an FCC enforcement action against your station than is reporting that, for one reason or another, the test did not work. These forms are due on December 27.
The date for a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System ("EAS") was announced by the FCC last week, at the same meeting at which the Future of Media report was delivered. The first ever national test of EAS will occur at 2 PM EST on November 9, 2011. As we wrote in February, the FCC amended its rules to provide for a nationwide test, in addition to the weekly and monthly tests that are already part of the FCC rules. The nationwide test is to assess the reliability and effectiveness of EAS in being able to convey to the public a Presidential alert. This test comes at the same time as the FCC has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to consider amendments to its rules to provide for the conversion to a new method of disseminating EAS alerts – using the Common Alert Protocol (CAP) which is IP based, rather than reliant on the daisy chain over-the-air system that has been used for so long. One question is whether the deadline for CAP implementation, presently set for September 30, should be extended. Thoughts about the test and the FCC proposals for CAP implementation are set out below.
The Nationwide test, even though it will not use the CAP system (which in and of itself may show that the Commission has already recognized that the September 30 CAP implementation deadline will be extended), is still very important for broadcasters. The FCC, in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency ("FEMA"), will use the results of the test to determine what problems exist in the EAS system and what improvements are necessary to ensure that the EAS functions as a robust public warning system. As broadcasters in recent years have highlighted their participation in EAS, and the important role that it plays in alerting communities to emergency situations, in connection with many initiatives (including the push to put FM chips in cell phones), broadcasters want to make sure that their performance during the upcoming test will be up to the level that the FCC expects. As all EAS participants will have to report to the FCC on the results of the test, all participants should use the period between now and November to assure that their systems are working and ready to fulfill their obligations under the rules. No broadcaster, cable system or other participant wants to be in the position of having to report to the FCC that their equipment was malfunctioning on the date of the test. And, certainly, no participant wants to forget to file the necessary report when due.