FCC Updates EAS Rules

The FCC has updated its Emergency Alert System (EAS) rules to make emergency alerts easier for the public to understand and more accessible to those with certain disabilities.

EAS messages are currently transmitted using the “legacy” system and the newer Internet-protocol method. Under the new rules, EAS Participants (including radio and television broadcasters, and satellite, cable TV, and wireline video services) must transmit the IP-formatted version of alerts when they are available instead of the legacy version. The FCC says that using IP-formatted alerts in Common Alerting Protocol will result in higher-quality audio messages, television alerts containing all information provided by the government, and greater availability of multilingual alerts. This will improve access for members of the public who are hearing or visually impaired.

Another change is that plain-language descriptions will replace the technical jargon used in some EAS messages. For example, national testing of the EAS system will now be called a “Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System” instead of a “National Periodic Test.” In addition, the text for the PEP originator code used to specify the President or a federal agency as the alert originator is changed from “Primary Entry Code System” to “United States Government.”

Additionally, when a legacy nationwide test alert is generated from the PEP and NPT header codes and uses the “All-U.S.” geographic location code, video service EAS Participants will be required to display the following scripted text: “This is a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, covering the United States from [time] until [time]. This is only a test. No action is required by the public.”

EAS Participants generally need to comply with these rule changes within one year from the effective date of the Order; however, the FCC provided certain exceptions for cable operators.

Please contact an attorney in our Media practice group if you would like more information on the new requirements or EAS compliance in general.

Categories: Media