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MMTC Updates Katrina Multilingual EAS Petition

Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council President and CEO Kim M. Keenan has written a letter to the FCC on behalf of the organization explaining its 2016 amended petition on multilingual emergency alert broadcasts.

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in September 2005, the Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association, the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ Inc. and the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council collectively filed a Petition for Immediate Interim Relief.

A decade later, the MMTC and over 70 partners have crafted an amendment to the petition, addressing remaining gaps in multilingual emergency broadcast coverage in the U.S. The group asserts that certain radio markets should be designated to receive multilingual emergency broadcasting, in part because of the projected increase in the non-English speaking and foreign-born populations.

To update the data and analysis in the 2005 petition and subsequent filings, MMTC used BIA/Kelsey’s “Investing in Radio” (Third Edition, 2015), Radio Locator and station websites to identify in-language stations. The collective then employed a methodological paradigm analogous to the racial and ethnic classifications found in Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended in 1975; the comparable classification would be the persons needing to obtain and use disaster-relief information, i.e., persons ages 5 and above, who are not proficient in English.

MMTC suggests:

  • States must be accountable to design, implement and improve upon multilingual Emergency Alert System warnings.
  • Multilingual emergency broadcasting should be untethered from pre-emergency EAS warnings.
  • Broadcasters could serve as “Good Samaritans” with FCC support.

Additionally, the MMTC asks the FCC to encourage broadcasters to participate in the “Good Samaritan” model for the deployment of the state multilingual EAS. The commission should ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure that broadcast professionals are treated as first responders. Additionally, the MMTC suggests the FCC could consider waiving or reducing processing and regulatory fees for participating stations.