First Informers Get Hill Hearing
Broadcaster makes her point in wireless-centric hearing
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/14/2013 3:53:41 PM
She also addressed the 2011 EAS (emergency alert system) in which some broadcasters had technical difficulties.
Chairman of the full committee Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), had high praise for the home state broadcaster. "I want to welcome today my friend Diane Kniowski," he said in his opening remarks. "These stations do a tremendous job of keeping our communities in southwest Michigan informed both in times of emergency and during our day-to-day lives."
While the hearing focused almost exclusively on wireless and FirstNet broadband emergency communications network issues, Kniowski made the most of her platform in opening remarks and prepared testimony.
She relayed the stories of broadcasters who had stayed on the air with nonstop storm coverage for hours, even days, to keep their viewers informed. "Broadcasters deliver emergency information with passion -- before, during and after -- a disaster," she said.
She also pointed to the use of AMBER alerts to recover over 600 missing children. A wireless representative at the hearing also proudly noted last week's first wireless AMBER alert-related capture, arguing that broadcast alerts in general were valuable but insufficient in an era of increasingly mobile media consumers.
Perhaps, but Kniowski pointed out in her testimony that "even if the electricity is out, causing the Internet and cable television to go down, and phone service is lost because networks are clogged or cell towers or phone lines are down, free, over-the-air broadcasters can still be on the air and delivered to anyone with a battery operated radio or other receiver...[N]o other industry can match the ability of broadcasting to deliver timely warnings as well as on-going, comprehensive information as the situation unfolds to millions of people simultaneously."
Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), a former broadcaster, has concerns about the technical issues that prevented some stations in his state from receiving the EAS message in a test of the system in November 2011. "While more than 90% of the stations properly ran the test message, technical challenges prevented stations in my home state of Oregon and elsewhere from receiving the message," he said. "This could have been catastrophic in a real emergency and must be resolved in short order," he said.
Anticipating the concern, Kniowski said in her testimony that FEMA had been working with one Oregon station to correct its problem, not with receiving the message, but with disseminating it. She also pointed out that the test was mean to identify problems "before a real event may occur."
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