There have been significant developments relating to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) in recent months. First, the Commission announced that it will hold the first ever national test of the EAS in November 2011. In addition, the FCC has released a Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("NPRM"), in which the Commission proposes a comprehensive review of the current EAS structure, and what steps should be taken to integrate new technology into future versions of the nation's alert system. Finally, in light of the NPRM, and to a lesser extent the national test, it becomes more likely that there will be a further extension of the deadline to implement the Common Alert Protocol (CAP) messaging, now set at Sept. 30, 2011.
In February 2011, the Commission issued an order establishing the rules and procedures for the initiation of a nation-wide presidential EAS test. The Commission indicated that it would give at least two months notice before conducting the test, and also required that all EAS participants take part in the test. The results of the test must be logged by the EAS participants, and the test results are to be provided to the Commission's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau within 45 days after the test. This information is to be submitted electronically, and the individual results of the participants will not be released publically.
On June 9, 2011, the Commission announced that the national test will occur Nov. 9, 2011, at 2 p.m. EST. Therefore, it is highly advisable that all broadcast stations check their equipment and make sure it is in working condition. The test results must be submitted no later than Dec. 24, 2011.
Along with the announcement of the national EAS test, the Commission released the NPRM to seek comment on proposed rules to implement CAP messaging, and to consider updates to the rules in general. Primarily, the Commission sought comment on the necessary steps that it must take to overlay CAP messages with the current EAS system, while, in the meantime, looking to implement more modern alert technologies such as RSS feeds and other IP-based distribution platforms. The Commission is also seeking comment on the requirements on licensees to be able to receive and relay CAP messaging by focusing on the design of the EAS equipment.
In particular, the Commission sought more information regarding the possible use of intermediary devices by EAS participants that would receive the CAP messaging and translate the message into the format currently used by legacy EAS equipment. These intermediary devices may offer a more cost-effective approach for EAS participants to come into compliance while the Commission and FEMA are considering a more comprehensive overhaul to EAS. Special focus was paid to the FCC certification process for the new equipment, and whether the need for such certification will impact the timing on the new obligations for EAS participants. The Commission also sought comment on the specific revisions to the rules to take into account the reception and transmission of CAP messages.
In light of the numerous issues raised by the Commission in the NPRM relating to the implementation of equipment to receive CAP messages, the Commission sought comment on whether the prior deadline to implement CAP-compliant equipment should be extended. The Commission sought comment on whether the deadline should be extended to a particular date based on when CAP-compliant equipment is certified by the Commission, or whether there is another triggering date that should be used.
Comments in the proceeding must be filed by July 20, 2011, and reply comments are due by Aug. 4. It is doubtful that the Commission will be able to churn out new rules by Sept. 30, 2011. Therefore, in light of the NPRM raising questions as to whether the CAP-implementation deadline should be extended, and whether the use of intermediary devices could be used by broadcasters to come into compliance, it is more than likely that the Sept. 30, 2011, deadline will be extended to a point when the CAP-related rules become effective, and the equipment has gone through the certification process.
Radio stations located in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia continue to run license renewal post-filing announcements on July 1, July 15, Aug. 1, and Aug. 15.
Radio stations located in North Carolina and South Carolina run license renewal pre-filing announcements on July 1 and 15.
July 10: All radio stations place their second quarter issues/program list in their station's local public inspection file.
Aug. 1: All radio stations located in North Carolina and South Carolina file license renewal application and EEO program report. Non-commercial radio stations also file biennial ownership report (FCC 323-E). These stations must run license renewal post-filing announcements on Aug. 1 and 15, Sept. 1 and 15, Oct. 1 and 15. Radio stations located in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin must place their annual EEO public file report into their station's local public inspection file.
Aug. 1: Non-commercial radio stations in California must submit their biennial ownership report (FCC Form 323-E).
Petro is a member of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC, Arlington, VA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.