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FCC’s New Rules on False EAS Alerts, Alternative Use of EAS Tones Now in Effect

A year after formally adopting them, the FCC has now published new EAS rules in the Federal Register, which means they are now in effect.

What’s Changed?

The FCC is now requiring broadcasters to self-report their relay of any false EAS alert message about a non-existent emergency.  The move came in response to 2018’s false missile alert in Hawaii which caused widespread alarm in that state.

When announced by the FCC last year, some broadcasters expressed dismay saying the FCC would use self-reporting to fine stations for something that rarely occurs, but the commission said it is necessary to find and fix problems with the nation’s EAS.

Broadcasters will now be able to use the EAS attention signal in promotional EAS PSAs produced by FEMA and do “live code testing” without seeking a waiver.  Live code testing is the use of an actual EAS alert tone in test EAS alerts.

The commission has allowed it in the past, but only after emergency managers sought an FCC waiver in advance of these and provided plenty of pre-test publicity that actual tones would be used.

Attorney David Oxenford with TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer notes the FCC is also allowing the use of the EAS attention signal in PSAs and other informational announcements from FEMA and other public interest organizations, “but only where simulated tones developed by FEMA are used.”

Oxenford said these simulated tones will not trigger other station’s EAS alerts.

National Test of EAS on Aug. 7

FEMA and the FCC will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Wednesday, Aug. 7.

The nationwide test will be sent to radio and television stations at approximately 1:20 p.m. CDT.

The test is being conducted through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), but unlike previous national tests, this year’s test message will originate only from over-the-air Radio stations designated as Primary Entry Point stations

In other words, it’s a true test of the “daisy-chain” system of EAS test delivery in order to evaluate the readiness of the national alerting capability in the absence of internet connectivity.  The nation’s PEP stations participate in a component of IPAWS called the National Public Warning System.

Texas’ four PEP stations are WBAP-AM Dallas-Ft. Worth, KTRH-AM Houston, KLBJ-AM Austin and KROD-AM El Paso.

The test will be approximately one minute long, have a limited impact on the public with only minor interruption of radio and television programs, and will be like regular monthly EAS tests.

Both the audio message and text crawl should be accessible to people with disabilities.  The test will not include a message on cell phones via Wireless Emergency Alerts.  Afterwards, stations will be required to file the FCC’s EAS Test Reporting System Form Two, the so-called “day of test” report.

File ETRS Form Two at TAB’s Annual Convention and Trade Show!

TAB has set aside a room at TAB Convention for station staff to remotely file ETRS Form Two while attending opening day sessions at TAB’s Annual Convention and Trade Show on Aug. 7.

Bring your laptop or tablet to the TAB EAS Test Report Filing Party taking place in Room 207 of the JW Marriott in Austin from 2-5 pm.

TAB has arranged for Jessica Nyman, an attorney with TAB’s FCC’s legal counsel Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, to be on hand in case you have questions!

Stations must file detailed post-test information using ETRS Form Three by Sept. 23.

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

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