Several groups representing minority broadcasters have asked the FCC to immediately require stations to use the emergency alert system (EAS) to provide multi-lingual local, state and national disaster alert warnings.
The FCC opened a proceeding last year to determine what changes needed to be made in the system, including in light of a growing multilingual population, but the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, United Church of Christ and Independent Spanish Broadcasters Assoction say the FCC can't affort to wait.
They asked the FCC Tuesday for "interim relief," saying that whatever the FCC ultimately decides, in the meantime it should require multilingual warnings.
The groups cited Hurricane Katrina, where they said the only Spanish-language station in the New Orleans area was off the air the night before the storm and the week thereafter, so that "vital information concerning the path of the storm, where and how to seek shelter, and how to remain healthy and safe in the aftermath of the storm was available only in English." They also cited Vietnamese polulations as being at risk.
According to the FCC's Homeland Security director in a congressional hearing last week, the EAS was not even employed by state or local officials in English during Katrina, a situation that confounded some on Capitol Hill.