The FCC has made several changes to its rules governing the nation's
Emergency Alert System (EAS). Broadcast stations and cable systems are
required to participate in EAS on a national basis. They must install
EAS equipment that receives and transmits national alerts, and they
must broadcast national alerts over their stations. They must also
participate in tests of the EAS system. Stations and cable systems have
the option of participating in EAS on a state or local basis, which
involves broadcasting state or local alerts.
The FCC made the following changes to EAS at the request of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather
Service and the Society of Broadcast Engineers:
New state and local event codes were added to further specify the
nature of an alert. These include child abduction emergency, nuclear
power plant warning, avalanche warning, earthquake warning, fire
warning, hazardous materials warning, 911 telephone outage and volcano
From now on, new codes will adhere to a naming system in which the
third letter of the code is one of four letters. This will allow
consumer electronic products to check the third letter and generate a
generic message corresponding to the level of the alert (i.e., warning,
watch or emergency).
New location codes have been added to cover adjacent offshore areas.
Location codes specify the area of alert.
EAS equipment manufacturers may now include a feature allowing
stations to program their decoders to selectively display and log only
those state and local messages that contain certain codes. This is more
consistent with the voluntary nature of state and local EAS. All
national EAS messages must continue to be displayed and logged.
Existing EAS equipment need not be updated to receive and transmit
new state and local event and location codes, or selectively display
and log only certain state and local codes. However, all equipment
manufactured after Aug. 1, 2003, must have these capabilities. In
addition, stations that replace their EAS equipment after Feb. 1, 2004,
must install equipment with these capabilities.
Stations will now have 60 minutes after receipt to retransmit the
required monthly test.
In a national emergency, stations will be permitted to broadcast the
President's voice message using a higher quality audio source than the
EAS decoder audio. Stations may not delay the broadcast to substitute
Satellite and repeater stations that rebroadcast 100 percent of the
programming of their lead station will no longer be required to install
EAS equipment. Lead stations are encouraged to monitor the EAS sources
of their satellite stations where these are different from their own
Low-power FM stations, which are currently required to install only
a decoder, will be temporarily exempted from installing EAS equipment
until decoder-only units become available for purchase.
EAS rule violations are a regular source of fines issued to
broadcasters. Failure to have the proper equipment or to log required
tests are the most common violations.
“If you're easily offended, please turn off your
radio.” This line during a Chicago morning show did not stop
the assessment of a $21,000 fine against an FM broadcaster. Despite the
warning, the FCC found that extensive discussions of sexual organs and
activity merited fines. The station was fined for three morning shows
in which on-air personalities discussed aphrodisiacs and graphically
described sexual activities.
“We're not home, leave a message.” Broadcasting
an answering machine message, without the prior consent of the
machine's owner, resulted in a $6,000 fine. The FCC's rules prohibit
the broadcast of telephone conversations without the other party's
prior consent. The FCC decided that the station that broadcast the
answering machine message should have given the other party prior
notice of intent to broadcast.
Martin is an attorney with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC.,
Arlington, VA. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
No biennial ownership reports are due in 2002. However, broadcasters
who purchase a new station, or obtain an initial construction permit or
license for a new facility, must still file a Form 323. These forms now
may be filed electronically.
On July 10 all commercial and noncommercial stations must place in
their public files their quarterly issues/programs lists for the period
April 1 - June 30. Such lists must contain a brief narrative describing
the issues covered and the programs that provided the coverage, with
information concerning the time, date, duration and title of each