Statements from the House floor at the beginning of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season praise over-the-air broadcasting for providing early warnings and disaster relief.
National Association of Broadcasters President-CEO Gordon Smith issued the following statement after nine Members of Congress went to the House floor yesterday to deliver statements recognizing the value of free, over-the-air broadcasting in providing early warnings and disaster relief to American communities affected by severe weather and other emergency situations.
“Broadcasters are a trusted resource for millions of Americans who rely upon local radio and television stations for accurate information during times of emergency,” said Smith. “With the start of hurricane season upon us, we thank these members of Congress for recognizing the critical role that stations play in keeping citizens safe and informed. Indeed, no technology can replicate broadcasting’s reliability in reaching mass audiences and providing a lifeline support in emergency and disaster situations.”
June 1 marks the start of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Billy Long (R-Mo.), Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), David Scott (D-Ga.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) went to the House floor to address disaster preparedness and the important role local radio and television stations play as first-informers during times of emergency.
“Emergency plans are only effective if they are able to communicate to the folks in need. They in fact underscore the importance of our broadcasters. With that in mind, I’ve constantly supported efforts by both the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission to explore the potential benefits of including radio tuners in mobile telephones,” said McCarthy. “Since technology would ensure that folks would have an outlet to receive crucial information in times of need, I encourage this Congress to act swiftly to consider any and all opportunity that would facilitate communication during emergencies.”
The statements follow a 2012 Harris Poll showing growing consumer demand for radio-capable cell phones and heightened attention among policymakers who have indicated an interest in exploring the merits of equipping mobile devices with radio chips.
Next week, on June 6, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), will hold a hearing on the future of audio, where the topic of enabling cell phones with radio chips is expected to be discussed.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, recently held a “roundtable” on Capitol Hill with members of the broadcast, cable and wireless industries to discuss how to work together to enhance the current system of alerting and informing the maximum amount of citizens in times of crisis.
Following a rash of severe weather and tornado outbreaks last summer, former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said: “We share a duty to think creatively about how we can arm consumers with additional ways to communicate during disasters … I think the time is here for a thorough, calm and reasoned discussion about FM chips in handsets.”
In February, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus also called on the FCC to hold a hearing to explore the benefits of including radio tuners in mobile phones.
Broadcasting’s importance in emergency situations has also been noted by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. In advance of Hurricane Irene’s trek up the East Coast last summer, Fugate urged Northeasterners to stay connected to local radio and TV. “Local broadcasters,” said Fugate, “are going to have the most detailed information about what’s happening in your community.”