FCC Shortens Emergency Alert

The FCC is shortening its national Emergency Alert System test from 3 minutes to 30 seconds, an FCC source confirmed Thursday.

According to a source, shortening the duration is so that nobody will mistake it for an actual emergency, something some industry players had suggested might happen with such an extended warning.

The FCC is conducting the test at 2 p.m. on Nov. 9, in conjunction with FEMA and the National Weather Service. The test requires broadcasters, cable operators, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers and DBS to deliver a presdiential message or other info during a national emergency.

While the EAS system has been tested on a monthly and weekly basis at the state and local level -- that annoying "this is only a test" tone -- this will be the first national, end-to-end test of the alert, which is used for national emergencies.

In a public notice announcing the move, the FCC said that cutting the test from "approximately 3 minutes" to 30 seconds "will allow the agencies to effectively assess the reliability and effectiveness of the EAS as a way to alert the public of national emergencies with limited disruption to the public."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.