Committee reports to FCC on bilingual EAS


Among the many problems exposed by Hurricane Katrina was a problem getting emergency warnings and post-emergency information to non-English speakers. A conference was held by a number of interested parties at the behest and for the benefit of the five FCC commissioners, including Rolo Duartes from Univision, Cheryl Leanza from United Church of Christ, Jane Mago and Kelly Williams from NAB, Francisco Montero of the Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association, David Honig and Jonathan Stein from the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and Pat Roberts and Matt Leibowitz of the Florida Association of Broadcasters. The session appears to have identified the fault lines in what all nevertheless agree is an issue which must be addressed. More work is needed to determine what will be technically feasible, particularly on the incoming digital platform. NAB and FAB noted the success of Florida’s voluntary bilingual alert program and suggested a regulatory mandate from the FCC would not be appropriate; most others felt that wouldn’t be enough and that aggressive FCC involvement would be required. The committee reported its focus on Spanish alerts, and did not seriously address use of other languages. The FCC’s Derek K. Poarch, Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, issued the report on the meeting and announced further stakeholder events to build a record for future action in this area.