FCC Will Allow Text-to-Speech Emergency Alerts

The Federal Communications Commission has decided to defer, rather than prohibit, converting emergency alerts from text to speech, a prohibition in its initial EAS order.

In an order released Thursday, the FCC amended its Jan. 10 order on specifying how emergency alert system (EAS) participants, which include broadcasters and cable operators, must receive Common Alert Protocol (CAP) messages.

The original order had not allowed text-to-speech conversions of those CAP messages because, for one reason, the accuracy and reliability had not been established, said the FCC. It also wasn't convinced the obligation should be on the receiver, rather than the transmitter of the message to do that conversion.

But FEMA, for one, objected, saying that by prohibiting TTS it would limit its development. In addition, it said, not allowing TTS conversions of alerts "could possibly disrupt dissemination of National Weather Service alerts, delay retrieval of referenced audio files in alerts, and impact the ability of jurisdictions with limited resources, or those with certain, already implemented CAP alerting capabilities, to issue CAP-formatted alerts."

As a result, the FCC has decided to allow TTS, but make it optional, effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register, which usually takes a week or so.