FCC: White House Seeks Local TV Feeds For Situation Room

Feeds could be helpful in emergencies and natural disasters

According to a spokeswoman for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, the FCC is currently working with the White House and media companies to find a way to feed local TV station signals into the White House's situation room, the command and control nerve center in the West Wing that was given a high-tech makeover in 2006.

Spokeswoman Edie Herman, speaking for the chairman, would not comment on an allegation in a report released Tuesday by House Democrats that the FCC's Media Bureau had

threatened to hold up the sale of satellite company DirecTV to Liberty

until an issue had been resolved about the White House getting access to some local TV channels. But she did say that it might have been a "mischaracterized" reference to an initiative the FCC and the White House are currently teaming on.

According to Herman, for purposes of national security, "the FCC is working with the White House, and media companies [she did not say which] so the White House's situation room can get local feeds from broadcasters throughout the nation."

She says that the feeds could be helpful in emergencies and natural disasters in, say, "some city that is 700 miles away."

Herman pointed out that "it is often the local broadcaster that first gives any details" in situations where the White House's own people "may not be in Des Moines at that moment."

The argument that broadcasters are something of a first line of first responders in emergencies is one that industry has often made to the FCC in promoting the value of local TV and radio.

A DirecTV spokesman declined comment.

Dennis Wharton, Executive VP of NAB, said he was not aware of NAB being involved in the initiative, but said, “It does point out the longstanding lifeline service provided by local broadcasters in the event of emergency situations.”


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