Bill Inspired by False Hawaii Missile Alert Passes Senate

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The Senate Monday night unanimously passed the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act. The bill, introduced by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), John Thune (R-SD), and Roger Wicker (R-MS), is aimed at improving federal oversight of the wireless and broadcast emergency alert system. It was introduced after the false ballistic missile alert in Hawaii this January.

The measure would eliminate the option of opting out of certain WEA alerts, including certain federal and missile alerts. It would also require active alerts issued by the President or FEMA to be repeated. Currently, alerts on TV or radio may only be played once.

The bill (S. 3238) directs the FCC to investigate updating the system to offer emergency alerts over the internet, including to audio and video online streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify. The agency would also explore new ways of alerting the public through online video and audio streaming services, track and study false alerts when they occur, and improve the way states plan for emergency alerts.

NAB urged passage in the House. “Local radio and TV broadcasters play a vital role as ‘first informers’ in keeping communities safe, and we understand the importance of relevant and up-to-date information when lives are at risk,” said NAB EVP Communications Dennis Wharton.

December 19, 2018

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