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FCC To TV Stations: Make Emergency Information Available To All Viewers, Act On EAS Vulnerability

The FCC has issued a Public Notice reminding TV broadcasters of their obligation to provide emergency information to all segments of their viewing audience.  

The reminder comes at the height of the Atlantic hurricane season, but the requirement under Section 79.2 of the FCC’s rules “to make televised emergency information accessible to persons with disabilities” applies to all manner of emergencies from hurricanes to pandemics.

The FCC said emergency information provided in the video portion of a regularly scheduled newscast or a newscast that interrupts regular programming must be made accessible by aurally describing the emergency information in the main audio portion of the programming. 

When emergency information is conveyed visually during programming other than newscasts (e.g., through “crawling” or “scrolling” text during regular programming), an aural tone on the main audio stream must accompany the visual information.

Additionally, such visual emergency information must be conveyed aurally in full at least twice through a secondary audio stream, preceded by an aural tone on that stream.

Aural emergency information must supersede all other programming on the secondary audio stream, including video description, foreign language translation, or duplication of the main audio stream.

The notice also provides examples of the types of emergencies covered by the rule, including pandemics, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, tidal waves, earthquakes, icing conditions, heavy snows, widespread fires, discharge of toxic gases, widespread power failures, industrial explosions, civil disorders, school closings and changes in school bus schedules resulting from such conditions, and warnings and watches of impending changes in weather.

Attorney David Oxenford with TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer has written more extensively about the notice and TV broadcasters’ obligations under the FCC’s rule here.

Broadcasters Urged To Check EAS Equipment for Vulnerabilities

The reminder comes just a week after the FCC and FEMA warned broadcasters of an EAS vulnerability and potentially compromised station EAS equipment.

The warning, said Oxenford, urged broadcasters “to update their EAS devices with the latest software and security patches, change default passwords, make sure that their systems are behind a firewall, and review audit logs regularly to make sure that there has been no unauthorized access.”

As confirmed by FEMA and the NAB, the problem is specific to Monroe DASDEC units that have not been updated, but other manufacturer’s units may also be vulnerable to hacking if security precautions are not employed.

Monroe ENDECs are employed more often by television stations rather than radio stations.

Stations that have updated to Monroe’s software version 4.0 or higher are considered secure.

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

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