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FCC proposes rules for multi-lingual, sign language emergency alerts

The logo of the Emergency Alert System. (Graphic by The Desk)
The logo of the Emergency Alert System. (Graphic by The Desk)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing a new rule that aims to make it easier for broadcast stations to send emergency alert messages in multiple languages.

The proposal announced on Thursday would see the FCC work with key stakeholders in drafting template alert scripts in 13 non-English languages, which would be produced by the agency and installed on equipment used to power the Emergency Alert System (EAS) at participating stations.

Those same templates would also be used by broadcast television stations and cable television system that participate in the EAS, the FCC said.

The agency is also interested in making emergency messages available in American Sign Language (ASL), and is seeking input from broadcasters and the public on the best ways to implement ASL-compatible message templates.

The templates aim to make it easier for non-English speaking citizens to receive EAS messages during significant events, such as a catastrophic storm, fire or another civil emergency requiring action from the public. The FCC said around 26 million Americans who do not speak English stand to benefit from the changes.

“Today, we begin the process of making EAS alerts–the ones you see on TV and hear on the radio–accessible in languages beyond English and Spanish, as we’ve done for wireless alerts,” FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Stark said in a statement posted to social media on Thursday. “All Americans must be able to understand and act on emergency alerts, however they receive them.”

The FCC is seeking public comment on the proposed rules. Interested parties who want to submit a comment on the matter can do so via the FCC’s website.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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