Recon, appeal deadlines also established

EAS handbook in Spanish-1Early last month we reported on the FCC’s “grant” of a petition by several organizations – Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association, the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc., and the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, to be specific – who wanted the Commission to require the provision of Spanish-language (and, where appropriate, other language) alerts in the Emergency Alert System (EAS). While the Commission stopped well short of adopting the proposal, it did elect to impose some new reporting obligations on EAS participants and on State Emergency Communications Committees (SECCs). The Order reflecting those obligations has now made it into the Federal Register, which means that some, but not all (see below), of the new and modified rules will take effect as of June 6, 2016.

The notice also establishes the date for any seeking reconsideration (by the Commission) or judicial review (by the courts) of the Order. Recons are due at the FCC by June 6, 2016, and petitions for review may be filed with your favorite federal court of appeals by July 5. (As always, would-be appellants with their hearts set on a particular circuit should jump through the proper hoops, as described in this notice from the General Counsel’s office. Spoiler alert: Those hoops require filing the petition for review way earlier than the outside July 5 deadline.)

For the time being, EAS participants and SECCs need not panic about this new effective date – EAS participants aren’t likely to be called upon to do anything new until late 2017, at the earliest, and SECCs not for another six months after that.

That’s because amendments to Sections 11.21(d)-(f) involve revised “information collections” that have to be run past the Office of Management and Budget first, thanks to the hilariously-named Paperwork Reduction Act. That process normally takes at least three-four months, sometimes more.

If and when OMB signs off on the changes, it will notify the FCC, which will in turn publish a further notice in the Federal Register advising us of OMB’s approval. That notice will trigger a one-year period, by the end of which EAS participants will have to have let their respective SECCs know about: (a) any steps they have taken to provide foreign-language EAS announcements; (b) any steps they plan to take to do so (including an explanation for why they plan to take any such steps or why they don’t); and (c) any other “relevant information” they feel like passing along. (EAS participants will also be expected to update their submissions within 60 days of any “material change” to information submitted.)

And the end of that initial one-year period will mark the beginning of a follow-on six-month period during which SECCs revise their respective State Plans to reflect the information submitted by EAS participants.

So EAS participants won’t be having to do anything for at least, say, 15-18 months (i.e., one year plus however long it takes the FCC to publish a notice of OMB approval), and SECCs will have another six months beyond that. As we said, notwithstanding the technical effective date of the underlying order, there is no reason for anybody to panic. Check back here for updates on that front.