Media, Administration Team on Blue Alerts

The FCC, Department of Justice and broadcasters are getting together on a new National Blue Alert Network, overseen by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The FCC is lending a hand by proposing to adopt a new EAS (Emergency Alert System) code for the alert.

The goal is to disseminate information quickly to the police, media and public about a "violent offender" who has "killed, seriously injured, or poses an imminent threat" to law enforcement.

President Donald Trump has been a long and outspoken supporter of law enforcement.

Broadcasters, will be integral to spreading the word, as they have with the DOJ's Amber Alerts, which had helped recover more than 800 missing children as of the beginning of 2016. Cable and satellite will also be part of the alert network.

On hand for the announcement of the national rollout were acting associate attorney general Jesse Panuccio, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and ICE Acting Director Thomas D. Homan.

Pai said he had formally proposed that the FCC approve a new EAS blue alert code, which would give states and localities the ability to deliver the alerts via cable, broadcast and satellite.

He said that proposal would be voted on at the June meeting.

"If it’s approved, we’ll then seek public input on whether the EAS is the right way to deliver Blue Alerts," he told the audience at the Department of Justice, which hosted the event. "We’ll also explore whether a dedicated EAS code can enable the uniform, nationwide delivery of Blue Alerts to the public, as envisioned by the Blue Alert Act.  We’ll also ask whether Blue Alerts could be delivered through the complementary, but separate, Wireless Emergency Alert system, which delivers critical warnings and information to your mobile phone.
"We have a collective responsibility to protect and serve those who protect and serve us."

Pannucio said the Trump Administration was committed to protecting those who put their lives on the line every day. In February, the President issued an executive order on finding ways to better protect law enforcement. The alerts can be broadcast on radio and television, and delivered to cell phones. He said any delay in capture could result in the death of other officers or civilians.

It is National Police Week (Monday, May 15, 2017 through Sunday, May 21), a point Pai made at this week's public meeting in praising FCC security staff for helping keep them safe. Pai and Republican Michael O'Rielly have been getting threatening Tweets and comments from opponents of their proposal to roll back Title II, an effort that was launched at that public meeting. Those comments have some staffers on edge.

The Amber Alert program got a shout-out this week on the Hill, where the Communications Subcommittee held a hearing on the future of emergency alerts. Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) opened the hearing by saying that "one data point that we all need to celebrate was that the first abducted child to be rescued by an Amber Alert in 1998 is about to graduate from high school."

(Photo via Eli Christman’s Flickr. Image taken on Dec. 14, 2010 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 9x16 aspect ratio.)

John Eggerton

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.