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McCain Supports Giving Broadcasters First Responder Status

As first reported in B&C, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.)

has signed on as co-sponsor of a bill

,  that would give broadcasters first responder status and access to disaster areas and fuel, food and water in times of emergency.

McCain is the third new co-sponsor in as many weeks, following the addition of Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) last week and Pete Dominici (R-NM) the week before, according to Adam Sharp, communications director for the bill's author, Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

McCain is also notable since he has been a vocal critic of broadcasters regarding the issue of first responder communications. He has argued that broadcasters were slow to make the switch to all-digital broadcasting, which would free up analog spectrum for an interoperable emergency communications network that he argues could help avoid some of the problems exposed by the 9/11 attacks.

Sharp says that bill now has seven co-sponsors, including all the members of the Disaster Recovery Subcommittee, of which Landrieu is chair. In its report on post-Katrina communications, the FCC raised the issues of media access to fuel and other supplies, which helped form the basis of some of the bill's provisions.

With Appropriations committee markups aplenty to occupy Landrieu's time, don't look for a big push on the bill until after the July recess, when more co-sponsors and a mark-up date will be sought. A similar bill has been introduced in the House.