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Government Officials Advise Citizens to Tune to TV, Radio in Emergencies

Government officials from FEMA and the National Hurricane Center Thursday told reporters to spread the word that TV and radio will have the most up-to-date information on hurricane Irene, the category 3 hurricane threatening the Eastern Seaboard.

"We really want to put the emphasis on the evacuation orders or recommendations that come from the local officials," FEMA administrator Craig Fulgate told Multichannel News and other reporters on a briefing call Thursday. "Local TV and radio stations are often times the ones who will be carrying that specific information." He also talked about social media as a way to connect when cell phones weren't working.

Separately, in an interview with CNN, when asked about the cell phone problems in the wake of the earthquake that hit Virginia, Fugate told CNN's Ali Velshi that "what I think people that got so enamored with their smartphones and stuff forget -- it's your local radio and TV stations. Those local broadcasters are going to be giving you the best information, real time, from those local officials out of those press conferences." That is according to a transcript circulated by the National Association of Broadcasters, which has been arguing that broadcasting's role as an emergency "first informer" is one of the reasons the FCC and Congress need to make sure that any reclamation of spectrum for wireless does not compromise that vital function.

"Our friends in the cell phone industry have predictably used this week's massive system failure as a call for more broadcast spectrum," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. The cell phone association, CTIA, has conceded there were troubles getting calls through, but says that was not due to any infrastructure failure but from congestion it has argued more spectrum would help alleviate. "As constructed now, all the spectrum on the planet won't prevent cell phone network disruptions in a crisis situation," said Wharton in a statement.

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.