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MMTC Presses FCC to Reverse Its Multilingual EAS Decision

Group calls order ‘deeply flawed’

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council is pressing the Federal Communications Commission to change its mind about multilingual Emergency Alert System communications, describing a recent FCC decision as “deeply flawed.”

Organization officials recently attended several meetings with Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Ajit Pai, as well as members of Chairman Tom Wheeler’s staff, regarding the EAS order and recommendations of an earlier panel about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on communications networks.

The petition asked the FCC to ensure that individuals not proficient in English have “in-language” information from a “designated hitter” station before, during and after a catastrophic event such as a hurricane. The League of United Latin American Citizens has called the petition a critical one for the Hispanic community.

[Read about what the FCC did and did not do in its earlier decision.]

MMTC says the FCC does indeed have the jurisdiction to mandate a “designated hitter” system; that such a mandate would not infringe upon broadcasters’ First Amendment rights; that the costs of such a service are virtually negligible; that the order ignores an independent panel’s recommendations that the FCC should mandate multilingual emergency alerts; and the lack of recognition that 57 national civil rights organizations, not just the MMTC, formally endorsed the Katrina Petition.

“MMTC stated in each of its meetings that because the order is so deeply flawed, it should be withdrawn as prematurely or improvidently released,” said David Honig, president emeritus and senior advisor to the MMTC in a filing to the commission.

When it issued its ruling, the FCC stated: “Although we do not find the facts and record support the petitioners’ proposed … rule revisions, we find that the reporting requirements adopted in this item will, by other means, provide information that may facilitate the dissemination of multilingual local, state and national emergency information via the EAS.”

Comments about the EAS system can be posted to the FCC comment system using Proceeding Number 04-296.

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