The FCC scored a legal victory in court this past week when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its requirement that EAS participants report to their State Emergency Communications Committee (SECC) their progress on developing multilingual EAS alerts (an SECC is a committee assigned to implement EAS in a specific state). EAS participants must submit the required information to their SECC by Nov. 6.
Our dedicated readers may recall that about a year and a half ago the FCC rejected a petition that proposed requiring broadcasters to provide EAS alerts in languages in addition to English. That petition, filed by a group of public interest organizations, took issue with the fact that non-English speaking persons are being left in the dark on emergency information transmitted via the EAS.
As we reported, the FCC was ultimately unwilling to meet the petitioners’ requests (and took about a decade to decline to meet those requests). The petition requested the FCC promulgate five amendments to its Part 11 Rules to implement substantive requirements for the dissemination of multilingual EAS alerts, but the FCC instead opted for EAS participants to merely report their progress in creating multilingual EAS alerts, essentially so that the FCC can study the issue.
Specifically, the FCC directed EAS participants to report to their applicable SECC the following:
- A description of any actions taken by the EAS Participant to make EAS alert content available in languages other than English to its non-English speaking audience(s);
- A description of any future actions planned by the EAS Participant to provide EAS alert content in languages other than English to its non-English speaking audience(s), along with an explanation for the EAS Participant’s decision to plan or not plan such actions; and
- Any other relevant information that the EAS Participant may wish to provide, such as information on languages other than English spoken within the states they serve, although provision of such information is purely voluntary.
Less than pleased with this outcome, the original petitioners brought suit against the FCC, alleging that the relief sought in their petition was mandated by the Communications Act and that the FCC’s rejection of that relief was arbitrary and capricious. Just last week, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit sided with the Commission, upholding the SECC reporting requirements.
With the fact of the FCC’s reporting requirement settles in court, the deadline for submitting the above information is Nov. 6. Importantly, EAS participants are to submit their responses directly to their applicable SECC (a list of SECCs and their contact details may be found here), not to the FCC, by Nov. 6. If a material change in one or more of these responses occurs, the broadcaster must submit to their SECC and the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau letters describing such changes within 60 days. Please contact us if you would like assistance in submitting the required information.
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