Members of Congress took to the floor to express their awareness of and gratitude for the vital role broadcasters fill in times of emergency. Two said that because of this, it’s time to make FM radio accessible on mobile phones.
Floor statements in support of broadcasters were made by a bipartisan group that included Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Billy Long (R-MO), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Ted Poe (R-TX), Laura Richardson (D-CA), David Scott (D-GA), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Todd Young (R-IN).
In addition, Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Andre Carson (D-IN) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) had their remarks inserted into the Congressional Record.
NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith welcomed the support, saying, “Broadcasters are a trusted resource for millions of Americans who rely upon local radio and television stations for accurate information during times of emergency. With the start of hurricane season upon us, we thank these Members of Congress for recognizing the critical role that stations play in keeping citizens safe and informed. Indeed, no technology can replicate broadcasting’s reliability in reaching mass audiences and providing a lifeline support in emergency and disaster situations.”
McCarthy and Carson advocated for requiring that cell phones include the ability to receive FM signals. McCarthy explained, “Emergency plans are only effective if they are able to communicate to the folks in need. They in fact underscore the importance of our broadcasters. With that in mind, I’ve constantly supported efforts by both the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission to explore the potential benefits of including radio tuners in mobile telephones. Since technology would ensure that folks would have an outlet to receive crucial information in times of need, I encourage this Congress to act swiftly to consider any and all opportunity that would facilitate communication during emergencies.”
RBR-TVBR observation: At a time when broadcasters are facing various challenges from competing communications interests, you have to love it when legislators go to the trouble to advocate for broadcasting out loud, before the cameras and in the pages of the Congressional Record.
And what they are saying is absolutely true – MVPDs and telcos do not have the infrastructure or local presence to be of any use in providing emergency news and information at the point of a disaster. Even if they did, bad weather can disrupt satellite reception and knock down wires, and the inefficient one-to-one methodology of mobile devices makes them useless when everybody uses them at once.
The boots-on-the-ground staffing and one-to-many distribution model are two of the main reasons that broadcasters are the only communications resource of any use in times of dire need.