MSRC: Media Disaster Plans Need Rehearsing

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Broadcasters, cable operators and other electronic-media providers in individual markets should plan better for joint cooperation in the wake of a terrorist attack or other disaster, said a proposal unveiled by a Federal Communications Commission-sponsored group Thursday.

Members of the Media Security and Reliability Council are reviewing a report indicating that most markets have sufficient towers, cable headends and satellite links to ensure that local citizens will have some access to mass communications if disaster strikes their community but few media companies have rehearsed contingency plans for using each others' equipment as backup. MSRC members will vote on a list of recommendations, including one to step up rehearsals of disaster action plans, to improve their preparedness by Nov. 26.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell told a gather of industry officials that companies are living under the "false comfort" of having plans that have been written out but never tested. Tribune Co. Chief Executive and MSRC Chairman Dennis FitzSimons called numbers showing that fewer than 10% of broadcasters have rehearsed their plans "scary."

An MSRC report also showed that fewer than 10% of media companies have reciprocity agreements to help each other stay on the air during a disaster. The MSRC report also called for market-by-market restoration committees to study getting markets back to full capacity and for use of digital technologies to develop new emergency notification practices.

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