Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


EAS Rules Modifications Put Broadcasters on the Clock to Comply

Increased use of Internet-based alerts, in CAP format, will produce higher-quality audio messages

Recently mandated updates to the Emergency Alert System are already in effect, but broadcasters have until Dec. 12, 2023, to implement those changes. This may require software updates to EAS units or even hardware replacement, according to those familiar with the developments.  

The FCC updated it EAS rules to take advantage of the latest technologies in order to reach more people, particularly people with disabilities. The commission believes that required greater use of IP-based Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) format alerts will result in more understandable and informative messages.

“The cost of the software changes needed due to the requirements adopted will not significantly exceed the costs of software updates that most EAS participants would need to implement whether or not these rule changes are adopted,” the FCC noted in the Report and Order. 

Those costs for needed upgrades could range from several hundred dollars or more, according to industry experts, to total hardware replacement. They encourage broadcasters to reach out to their EAS unit manufacturer to determine the exact cost of the required upgrade and start budgeting accordingly.

A recent webinar presented by the Alabama Broadcasters Association, and hosted by attorneys Frank Montero and Ann Crump of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, focused on the FCC’s order last fall modifying EAS requirements to improve on the clarity and accessibility of EAS messages.   

The changes coming in December will require new monitoring procedures for broadcasters, and assurances that EAS units can handle updated alert codes for identification and nationwide tests, Montero said during the webinar.  

“The FCC believes that these rules modifications will result in the greater use of the more IP-based CAP, which includes alerts that are more informative for the public,” Montero said.

Beginning in December, broadcasters will be required implement the new CAP alert polling and prioritization rules, according to the webinar, along with the new text for the national alert originator code (PEP), the national test code (NPT) and the national emergency code (EAN).

EAS participants will be required to delay retransmitting an alert for 10 seconds to allow for the CAP version to appear, and, if not, to poll the IPAWS feed to either find the CAP version or to confirm no CAP version of the message is available, Montero said.

Montero said the new requirements for CAP polling will apply to the required monthly EAS test, “but are not applicable to required weekly tests, national tests of EAS or for national emergency message.” The polling requirement also will not apply to weather alerts from the National Weather Service, Montero said on the webinar, since NWS does not yet have the capability to distribute alerts in the CAP format.

The recent webinar also emphasizes the importance of not sending any false EAS tests or using the EAS tone for any reason outside of actual EAS alerts. Crump said “the FCC recently proposed a fine of $504,000 against Fox Corp. and its television subsidiaries for using the alerting tones of the EAS system in a promotional announcement aired on the company’s television network in Nov. 2021.”

The false alert tones were transmitted over 18 Fox O&O stations, 190 network affiliates and even Fox Sports Radio, according to the FCC.  

The FCC also has an ongoing proceeding focused on cybersecurity, and specifically the security of EAS gear connected to the internet. Those changes could include mandatory reporting of cyber threats to their EAS equipment within 72 hours and filing a cybersecurity risk management plan with the FCC for all EAS systems. 

The EAS webinar, which includes a thorough review of EAS requirements for broadcasters, can be viewed online. 

[Sign Up for Radio World’s SmartBrief Newsletter]