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Broadcaster Beware – Not All EAS Developments Are Publicized

Broadcasters know how difficult it can be to keep up with the multitude of federal legal issues continuously percolating in Washington, D.C., that affect station operations. Some receive a lot of attention and others do not, and the Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a good example.

Stations were very aware that there was no national test of the Emergency Alert System this year.

The Department of Homeland Security and the FCC recognized the pandemic was creating onsite staffing issues for stations, so the 2020 test was canceled.

The decision was well publicized, as has been the fact that broadcast of false and misleading EAS tones is an FCC violation and subject to serious fines.

Such missteps often stem from an advertising agency or station staff getting “creative” with EAS tones in an advertisement or in station programming. The FCC also has cited network programming, such as in 2019 when they issued a proposed $272,000 fine against CBS for use of EAS tones in a “Young Sheldon” episode.

But were you aware that broadcasters must now inform the FCC within 24 hours of a broadcaster’s discovery that it has transmitted or otherwise sent a false EAS alert to the public?

I admit that one slipped by me last year, though it was among the EAS rules approved by the FCC and took effect in 2019.

Last week I noticed the new FCC requirement in a summary of television legal issues prepared by attorneys David Oxenford and David O’Connor of Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer.

Oxenford notes that in such instances, broadcasters “must send an email to the FCC Ops Center informing the FCC of the event and any details that the EAS participant may have concerning the event.

That’s good to know, and hopefully, an action a Texas broadcaster never has to undertake.

If it happens on your station’s airwaves, be advised.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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