Minority Advocates Push Multilingual EAS at D.C. Summit

Minority advocates Monday were pitching a multilingual version of the Federal Communications Commission's Emergency Alert System.

At an EAS Summit for broadcasters in Washington, D.C., the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, the Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ argued that "tens of millions of Americans are not fluent in English, and there are no stations broadcasting in their languages in many cities," according to prepared testimony supplied to B&C. "In many cities, multilingual stations are so few in number that damage to one outlet would deprive the market of broadcast communications in one or more widely spoken languages."

They argued that the multilingual Universal Emergency Broadcasting system would go well beyond EAS' "get to safety" warnings to provide a lot more information.

"People need much more information than the two memorable words that opened The Amityville Horror, 'Get out!,'" MMTC executive director David Honig -- who pushed the FCC to release a bilingual EAS handbook -- was planning to tell the forum crowd. “People also need to know where to assemble to be taken out of town; where food, water and shelter can be found; how to locate missing loved ones; how to secure their property; how to protect their families’ health and safety; and how to be rescued. Our UEB proposal would cover all of that."

Honig added that three years after Hurricane Katrina, the FCC still doesn't have a multilingual EAS and only one state broadcaster association has made significant progress toward one.

About 500 local broadcasters are in town this week for a meet and greet with legislators and FCC officials, sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters. Honig couldn't help tweaking those broadcasters a bit.

"For our part, the MMTC will help you meet the challenge of multilingual emergency broadcasting," he planned to say in closing his remarks. "Just apply the same can-do spirit that the broadcasting industry has shown in efficiently transitioning to DTV, in avoiding indecency fines and in preventing the FCC from proposing onerous localism regulations. Oh, wait …"

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.