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Be careful with EAS test reporting


TAB reminds stations of an important FCC regulation that could come into play on Wednesday, Nov. 9 in connection with the nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), or even in the days that follow the test.

Stations may prepare news reports about the test or on-air drive time staff may discuss the test in a humorous light. However, no station should use the EAS tones in that programming.

The reason? Section 11.45 of the FCC's Rules states:

  • No person may transmit or cause to transmit the EAS codes or Attention Signal, or a recording or simulation thereof, in any circumstance other than in an actual National, State or Local Area emergency or authorized test of the EAS. Broadcast station licensees should also refer to § 73.1217 of this chapter.

That means that unless it?s an actual emergency or one of the prescribed tests of the system (such as Wednesday?s national test or an RMT, requirement monthly test), it?s a violation to broadcast the EAS tones.

Section 73.1217 of the FCC rules noted above is the prohibition on broadcast hoaxes that might cause substantial harm. David Oxenford, an FCC regulatory attorney with TAB Associate Member law firm Davis Wright Tremaine notes that Section 11.45 is an absolute prohibition on the use of EAS tones for other than an emergency - whether or not harm is caused. It?s also the reason why use of EAS tones in commercials is not allowed by the FCC.

There?s an important reason behind it. Broadcast of the EAS tones will trigger the EAS monitoring system of any station down the 'daisy chain" line, and thus the emergency information associated with these tones could end up being broadcast on other stations. This is especially true if a station is a Local Primary 1 or Local Primary 2 EAS station.

So, word to the wise, police your on-air content on Wednesday and in the days following the test. It could be painful for your station if you don?t. The base line forfeiture (what the FCC calls a fine) is $4,000 ? and it goes up from there depending on the circumstances.

If you have questions about the nationwide test or the reports required of it, please contact TAB.

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