By Lauren Lynch Flick,
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
The FCC and FEMA have established September 27, 2017 as the date for the next nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). Like last year’s test, all EAS participants must file Form 1 a month before the test. The Form 1 has been modified, however, requiring information that was not requested previously. In addition, the FCC’s Emergency Test Reporting System (ETRS) has been revamped so that prior log in codes do not work and the system’s functionality is now unfamiliar to prior users. As a result, while the Form 1 is technically due next Monday, August 28, anyone who has not yet started the filing process should begin immediately and aim to finish the process this week.
Abandoning the ETRS log in system from the prior test, the ETRS now relies on log in information from an entirely separate FCC database, the Commission Registration System (CORES). Therefore, the first step in filing the Form 1 in the ETRS is the rather unintuitive step of establishing an FCC Username and Password in the CORES. While this step might be simple enough in and of itself, it is important to understand that the CORES system confers control of the licensee’s Federal Registration Number (FRN) on the first person to lay claim to it.
Many broadcasters only know the FRN as the number they have to frantically search for every September when paying their Annual Regulatory Fees. But the FRN and password are increasingly used as the log in for many of the FCC’s other filing systems such as the new Licensing Management System that TV stations use for most application filings, the Universal Licensing System which is the licensing system for stations’ wireless facilities like broadcast auxiliaries and business radios, the International Bureau’s filing system for stations’ earth station facilities, and even an alternate log in for the new Online Public Inspection File. Therefore, every station owner should establish a CORES Username and Password or have their lawyer do so on their behalf, and then claim the role of “Admin” of their FRN, even if someone else will be making their ETRS filings.
Once the licensee has claimed the Admin role for the station’s FRN, the person making the ETRS filings for the station must establish a CORES Username and Password for themselves and request that the FRN Admin associate the licensee’s FRN with their account. Only once all those steps are complete will the person making the ETRS filings be able to even draft the Form 1.
To reach the Form 1, filers should log into the ETRS using their own CORES Username and Password. A message may appear at the top of the page upon logging in saying that no FRNs are associated with the account. If you think you have in fact associated the FRN with the account, proceed with drafting the Form 1, as the FRN may appear in the pull down menu despite that message.
Information about the station’s transmitter location, EAS equipment, and stations monitored will prefill from the Form 1 filed for the last nationwide test. This year, stations must also provide the location of their EAS receivers. The FCC is requesting this information to be able to map where signals are received and sent so that it can better understand any communications breakdowns. Also new this year, stations will see an instruction to file a separate Form 1 for each encoder, decoder or combination unit. It is likely that most broadcasters have a combination unit and therefore only need to file one Form 1. However, there may be situations where multiple filings are needed, for example where a cluster of co-owned radio stations share a studio but have to employ separate encoders and decoders to deal with stations in the group having different monitoring assignments.
So if you were procrastinating before filing the Form 1, or tried and were stymied by the FCC’s updated filing system, it’s time to get moving. Monday’s deadline is coming fast.