FCC to TV Stations: Don't Excerpt Wednesday's Emergency Alert Test

The FCC has warned TV stations not to excerpt Wednesday's Emergency Alert System (EAS) warning in any stories about the first national test of that EAS system, scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.

In a public notice from the the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, the FCC warned them "not to rebroadcast the EAS tones and/or attention signal in news or other stories..."

The FCC has pushed media outlets to inform their viewers about the test, but that does not extend to using any excerpts of that familiarly annoying three-tone warning that has been used in local and regional tests of the system for years. "Any rebroadcast of the EAS tones and attention signal not only would violate FCC rules, but also would pose a public danger because rebroadcast of the tones could trigger a false alert from EAS equipment that picks up such a rebroadcast," said the FCC.

In other EAS news, AT&T said Tuesday that since the alert was shortened last week from 3 minutes to 30 seconds, its customers may not recieve the alert, though they would if it were a real emergency.

"If the test only lasts 30 seconds," said AT&T, "alert messages will not be transmitted to U-verse customers and their receivers may not be automatically tuned to a local news station. However, in the event of an actual emergency alert, our customers' receivers would automatically tune to a local news station and all customers would receive the emergency alert message."

But AT&T said it has sent out a pre-alert alert to let its viewers know about the alert they may be missing.

"In an effort to keep our customers informed," said the company Tuesday, "we today notified our U-verse TV customers via an on screen message that a) the National Emergency Alert System is being tested tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET, b) the test has been shortened by the authorities from three minutes to 30 seconds to reduce overall disruptions, and c) because of the shortened duration of the test, the test may not appear on their TV screens."

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.