Multilingual Emergency Warnings on Wheeler's Radar

Longstanding petition sought immediate action post-Katrina

The FCC could be weighing into the issue of multilingual emergency warnings, according to an FCC source.

Earlier this week, the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council and Rainbow/PUSH asked the FCC to act on a long-standing (over eight years old) request that the FCC insure emergency alerts are accessible to multilingual populations.

According to a highly placed FCC official speaking on background, the new chairman's commitment to accessibility extends to critical information during emergencies. Language accessibility is indeed on the radar screen, the source said.

The MMTC et al petition dates back to Hurricane Katrina, when according to the groups, the only Spanish-language broadcast station in New Orleans was off air and for eight days "over 100,000 Latinos had no landline service, no cellular telephony, no television, no radio, and no print media in their language."

"Indications that it is on the radar screen is a promising sign," said David Honig, president of MMTC. "This is one of the greatest moral issues facing the commission today."