5 Questions for Broadcasters on the Upcoming Nationwide EAS Test

The Nationwide EAS Test is scheduled for October 4.  Some had wondered if the test would be delayed if the government shut down over budget issues. While an alert could be transmitted whether or not nonessential government employees were working, there was a fear that the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) would not be operational.  What good is a test if the reports could not be filed to determine its effectiveness? Now, according to various press reports, it appears that the FCC will have funds to operate for at least another few weeks even without a federal budget being passed, so we are assuming that the EAS test will be going forward as planned (though watch for any last-minute changes).  What should broadcasters know? 

Why is the test important?  Beyond simply testing the system, the test has added importance for AM stations. As Congress debates legislation to ensure that AM remains in the car to provide safety information, it would not look good if AM broadcasters did not participate in the test to ensure the reliability of their systems, or if they did not take the time to file with the FCC the required post-test reports. 

When will the test occur?  The test will be transmitted at approximately 2:20 PM Eastern Time on October 4. 

How will the test be transmitted?  The test will originate using the Common Alerting Protocol on the IPAWS system. Stations should be sure that their EAS receivers are configured to receive this internet delivered alert.

What post-alert reporting obligations do stations have?  The ETRS Form Two report must be filed within a day of the October 4 test.  So, by midnight ET October 5, stations should file Form Two, reporting if they received the test or not and if they successfully transmitted it.  ETRS Form Three is due November 20, providing greater detail about the test, including any issues with audio quality or other concerns.  The FCC has warned that it could take enforcement actions against stations that do not file these required post-test reports. 

How does the Nationwide Test affect other routine EAS test obligations?  The FCC rules say that the Nationwide Test replaces the required weekly test in the week in which it is conducted, and also replaces the routine monthly test for the month in which it occurs.

For more information, see the initial FCC Public Notice about the test, and a subsequent Public Notice addressing accessibility of the EAS alerts broadcast by television stations.  Also see our Broadcast Law Blog articles here and here which highlight some of the issues raised in the FCC Public Notices.    

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog