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NAB and REC Seek More Time for Stations to Meet New EAS Requirement

Groups say technical challenges remain as FCC deadline approaches

Two unlikely compatriots are joining forces to ask the FCC to push back the deadline for radio broadcasters to have their EAS equipment compliant with latest mandated upgrades.

The FCC has said Dec. 12 is the date most U.S. radio stations must comply with a report and order adopted in 2022 to improve the clarity and accessibility of EAS messages.

Now, NAB and low-power FM advocate REC Networks — in a joint letter to the FCC — are asking for more time and pointing to an announcement by a major supplier of EAS equipment, who says not all of its customers will have time to install the firmware update by the compliance deadline. 

The manufacturer has a “significant market share of both low power and full-power FM radio stations, and also serves numerous television and multiple video programming distributor EAS Participants,” wrote NAB and REC in their letter to the FCC.

The groups continued: “REC and NAB understand from broadcast stations across the country that a considerable number of EAS participants will be unable to implement the firmware update by December 12 due to the delayed release of this manufacturer’s firmware update.” 

The joint letter doesn’t name Sage Alerting, but earlier this month the company said on its website it continues to work on the update for its Sage ENDEC EAS boxes. Sage, at the time, made the FCC aware that the update has taken longer to implement that anticipated. Sage told Radio World when asked for comment that the firmware is in final testing and is expected to be released soon.

As the year comes to a close, that delay means many entities will be unable to comply regardless of when the manufacturer releases the update, according to the joint filing. “Simply put, it is already too late for many EAS Participants to meet the current deadline,” NAB and REC said.

The advocacy groups remind the FCC it may grant an extension of a compliance deadline for good cause. 

“Therefore, REC and NAB respectfully request a 90-day extension of the December 12 deadline, until March 11, 2024,” they told the commission.

[Related: “Sage EAS Firmware Update Is Still Pending“]

The new EAS regulations require broadcasters to prioritize the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)-formatted version of an EAS message on occasion it receives both a legacy version and CAP-formatted version of the same alert. The FCC in its report and order said the new requirements will make radio and TV alerts “clearer and more accessible to the public, particularly [to] people with disabilities.”

EAS participants must also display the new text for the national alert originator code (PEP), the national test code (NPT) and the national emergency code (EAN) by the deadline. 

With the deadline looming, the NAB and REC expressed concern over the sheer number of radio and television stations — especially low-power and small, full-power stations that lack in-house technical personnel — that will be relying on contract engineers to implement the required updates during a very narrow window of opportunity. 

“This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of EAS Participants must update their firmware by the same deadline,” the groups told the FCC. “In addition, some radio and television groups have dozens or even hundreds of EAS boxes that must be updated.”

An FCC spokesperson confirmed by email that the commission has received the NAB/REC letter and is reviewing the filing. The correspondence has been posted in PS Docket No. 15-94 in the FCC’s online database.

Radio World notes the NAB and REC are unexpected partners in this effort to move the broadcaster compliance deadline back since the two often find themselves on opposite sides of regulatory issues coming before the FCC. NAB represents the interests of commercial radio in Washington, while REC is often at the forefront of issues facing community broadcasters in the U.S.

[Related: “EAS Manufacturers Still Working on Those FCC Updates”]