On May 20, Representative Greg Walden, (R-OR), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (and a former broadcaster), led a hearing on modernizing America’s emergency alert system.
“As we move forward, we want to make sure that our first responder community, and the citizens they serve and protect, have access to the latest technologies. And, we want to make sure that it is an evolving force, not something that is simply locked in place,” said Walden.
Broadcasters made their case for the importance of advanced emergency alerts via the new next gen ATSC 3.0 standard and the necessity for the FCC to approve NAB’s request, along with noncommercial broadcasters and tech companies, to roll out the new standard on a voluntary basis.
Sam Matheny, Chief Technology Officer for the National Association of Broadcasters told lawmakers: “All NAB members, the thousands of free, local radio and television broadcasters in your hometowns, take seriously their role as the most trusted source of news and emergency updates. Whether it’s preparing listeners and viewers for the coming storm, directing them to needed supplies and shelter during the disaster, or helping towns and cities rebuild in the aftermath, local stations are part of the communities they serve. And, local radio and TV stations are sometimes the only available communication mediums in an emergency when cell phones and wireless networks fail. In fact, a new poll was released by Morning Consult, reaffirming that broadcasters are the number one medium that the American People turn to in times of emergency, by a factor of nearly four to one.”
“This unique combination of trust and reliability is why, in addition to our ongoing, comprehensive news coverage of emergencies, broadcasters form the backbone of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). EAS connects over-the-air broadcast radio, television and cable systems to communicate critical safety information to the public during sudden, unpredictable or unforeseen events. These capabilities can be enhanced by a station’s voluntary upgrade to Next Gen TV, which will enable significant life-saving advances in emergency communications. One need look no further than the recent and tragic fire in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy to appreciate the vital role of a reliable communications infrastructure during a time of crisis. ”