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Rotella: “First Responder” Status Is “Imperative”

Call 'em responders or informers; but broadcasters say they need assured access in times of crisis

The head of a major state broadcasters association describes as “imperative” a proposed action in his state’s legislature.

Paul Rotella, CEO of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association, is talking about draft legislation for a program similar to what is in place in Nevada and Illinois. It would treat the staff of broadcast stations as “first informers” who will be assured access to their facilities even, and especially, in times of crisis like Hurricane Sandy. In New Jersey the draft legislation uses the term “first responders.”

“We have ‘Essential Personal’ ID cards that allow broadcasters access to the roadways during times of emergency, but for a radio tech to be stopped by local police two blocks away from a studio or transmitter with needed gasoline or replacement parts for broadcasting equipment — that’s just too frustrating,” Rotella wrote in the association’s newsletter.

Wisconsin broadcasters launched a credentialing program for station staff some years ago, as RW has reported, and that appears to have started a movement among other states. Efforts to codify such programs were successful in Nevada and Illinois.

Broadcasters cite radio’s role during emergencies for the importance of making sure that trained staff can access studios, transmitters, generators and fuel supplies, for instance.

Rotella told RW he’s working with Senate, Assembly and administration officials, as well as law enforcement, in hopes of finding suitable legislative language. “The NJBA legislation provides for broadcasters to be designated as first responders during times of emergency and hazardous weather events to allow trained engineers and essential personnel to get to stations, towers, generators and other equipment vital to keeping the citizens of New Jersey informed in times of crises. We have had a lot of interest in bipartisan co-sponsors.”

He said New Jersey drafts have been modeled after the successful legislation in Nevada.

First Informer Concept Spreads (Jan. 2013)

Illinois ‘First Informer’ Broadcasters Act Signed Into Law (Jan. 2013)


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