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Groups push FCC to require multilingual EAS

On the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, more than 25 consumer and civil rights groups are pushing the Federal Communications Commission to require multilingual emergency alerts in markets where there are sizable populations that don’t speak English.

In a letter to the FCC, the groups, led by the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, propose that the FCC tie station license renewals to providing alerts in multiple languages. The MMTC, along with three other groups filed the original “Katrina petition” with the FCC in 2005.

“It is profoundly unfortunate that the commission cannot rely on voluntary action to solve this problem. Since the Katrina Petition was filed, not a single state broadcast association – not one – has come up with a plan to ensure emergency service to non-English language minorities,” the groups wrote.

The original petition suggested the FCC adopt a “designated hitter” system, where in each radio market, the state EAS would designate which station or stations to provide multilingual information if there was no other station broadcasting in that language on the air.

“This is one of the most critical issues that the FCC has ever faced,” said David Honig, MMTC’s president emeritus, who authored the original petition. “We are talking about the lives of thousands of people who are not served by broadcasters in their native language,” Honig added.

In addition to the MMTC, some of the groups that signed the letter were NAACP, Consumer Action, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, Public Knowledge, and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.