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Stations Advised to Disable Text-to-Speech by April 23

But might the FCC act quickly to allay broadcasters' concerns over the suddenly looming deadline?

This story has been updated with information about a reported item in circulation at the FCC.

The current debate over “text-to-speech” technology as part of the EAS system is not just an academic one. Here’s an update on this quickly evolving story.

New FCC rules that are about to take effect would prohibit the use of text-to-speech on your EAS gear (learn more here), due to concerns the FCC has over its reliability. Many organizations in radio are hoping to get the commission to overturn this prohibition, as RW has reported. Unless something changes, this could affect a lot of station engineers this week or next. But now it appears that something, in fact, might change.

Recent background: EAS expert Gary Timm of the Touchstone Consulting Group wrote on the AWARE Forum Tuesday that “any broadcaster or cable operator with a CAP/EAS unit already installed and connected to receive CAP alerts must disable the TTS feature in their unit by April 23 in order to remain compliant with FCC EAS rules.” He recommended that users contact their EAS equipment manufacturer for instructions on disabling the capability, and added a note that the upcoming NAB Show means engineers and other key personnel may be out of town leading up to April 23.

“It is recommended to at least investigate the steps required to disable TTS in your CAP/EAS unit before heading off to the NAB convention,” Timm wrote. “In the absence of disabling TTS, one could simply disconnect the CAP input to the CAP/EAS unit for the time being, as reception of CAP messages is not mandated until June 30, 2012.”

Ed Czarnecki with manufacturer Digital Alert Systems, too, sought to spread the word to disable the options by April 23. For users of his company’s gear, an application note can be downloaded here to disable the feature. If the FCC were to amend its prohibition later, TTS can be re-enabled.

Sage Alerting Systems too posted guidance for its customers, at — but here’s where the story takes another turn.

“There is an item on circulation at the FCC regarding the Text to Speech issue,” Sage told customers on its website Wednesday afternoon.

What might be contained in that item is uncertain; but the timing suggests that the FCC is watching and may do something to address broadcaster concerns, at least in the short term to clarify how stations should act given the April 23 deadline and the looming NAB Show.

For its part, Sage said it would shortly post the necessary update to let customers disable the function; but the company added, “If you have to drive all day to install it, you might want to wait a few days before you do so.”