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Thursday, July 12, 2012

"This is ONLY a test...."

Remember those words?

We heard them in our younger years when local radio stations tested their "Emergency broadcast system." Today, its called the "Emergency alert system."

At the end of June, most radio and TV stations were mandated to have changed their old "EAS" boxes to a newer, updated box, still called the "Emergency Alert System" but this one offers "oh, so much more!".

And, for tech geeks, it does. In terms of keeping logs for (required) FCC rules, yes. In terms of its concept for access via a web browser for programming the options, yes. But, rating it based on:  relying on the 'net for part of the emergency messaging, cost, and overall concept, I give it an "F."

First of all, a box for a station carried a cost to the broadcaster of around $2000 each. Remember, this is mandated by the FCC and your federal government. THEN, take the fact that this box did not carry with it any offer for "zero percent financing" or "government backed loans" to the broadcaster, many of which operate on shoestring budgets in local markets. This is the same FCC which MANDATED  a change to digital TV all over the United States, but...somehow found the money to buy digital TV converter boxes for everyone, from the millionaire on down to the welfare recipient, just so they could CONTINUE TO WATCH TELEVISION.

What's wrong with this picture?  We, as broadcasters are charged with protecting the public. Being at our posts during everything from severe weather to National Emergencies. No offers of help to us. Banks certainly aren't jumping to help anyone right now, especially small business!  But, we can all go home to our "free" converter  boxes.

And then there's the "ecological" side of things.  How many TV stations do you suppose there are in the USA?  Then add-in radio stations, and cable system "head ends" which needed to replace these boxes.  All the old boxes are completely without use. There is no other purpose for them except to go to landfills. Did the FCC or the government even OFFER to head-up a recycling program? Maybe a "mail us your old one for $$CASH$$ discount on your next license regulatory fee or renewal fee? You know the answer. It's a loud "NO!"  So, in areas where there may not be electronics recycling, hundreds or thousands of these older metal boxes are going in landfills. BECAUSE OF AN UNFUNDED GOVERNMENT MANDATE.

Then, there's the day we got our box ready to put-in.  It's designed to take updates to its firmware over the internet. The PUBLIC internet. It's designed to poll state and Federal servers for emergencies and their "newer" style of testing as I understand it.  So, what happens the day our station's engineer was in to do the updates and install?  THE INTERNET IN MY TOWN SERVING OUR STATION WAS DOWN!

See the irony here?

In any case, the new system is "in". Many stations are still waiting for their back orders to come in I'm hearing through the grapevine, because even ordering well in advance, there weren't enough to go around.  

We're all used to the "quacking" sound of an EAS alert tone for weather and for testing.  Now, with the new technology, if given the chance, here's what my recorded message would say to our listeners about the new system. (As it assures you the world is NOT coming to an end during a test).....what do you think?


THIS IS A TEST OF THE GOVERNMENT MANDATED EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM, COMING TO YOU AT HIGH COST TO THIS BROADCASTER. THIS IS ONLY A TEST TO SATISFY A GOVERNMENT RULE.  IF THIS  WAS AN ACTUAL EMERGENCY, A REAL PERSON WOULD HAVE MADE EVERY EFFORT TO BE IN THE STUDIO, BECAUSE WE ARE CONSCIENTIOUS BROADCASTERS.  REMEMBER, THIS IS  ONLY A TEST.  THIS STATION PARTICIPATES IN THE EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM TO KEEP YOU BETTER INFORMED, WITH HIGH-TECH EQUIPMENT WHICH COST US A BUNDLE, MANDATED BY THE US GOVERNMENT WITH NO OFFER OF ZERO PERCENT FINANCING OR ANY FINANCIAL HELP.  WE’RE YOUR LOCAL STATION.  PLEASE SHOP LOCALLY WITH OUR ADVERTISERS SO WE CAN AFFORD THE LOAN FOR THIS NEW GIZMO.  NOW BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog.

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