FCC Proposes Making Disaster Reporting Mandatory for Broadcasters

Posted on January 31st, 2024 by

In late January, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would make certain disaster reporting mandatory for broadcast stations.  Many broadcasters are familiar with the current Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) where reports during a disaster on a station’s status are optional. The NPRM would make such reporting obligatory.  In addition, the NPRM seeks input on whether to make reporting station operational outages mandatory in the FCC’s Network Outage reporting System (NORS).

During disasters, communication outages can make it difficult for stations to make such reports, and the FCC seeks comment on this issue as it seeks to adopt what it calls a “simplified” reporting procedure in such circumstances.  In an earlier related proceeding, many broadcasters objected to mandating disaster reporting as too burdensome. The FCC asks for further comment on that issue and others, and on whether to make reporting obligations different for large or small broadcasters.

We wonder about how a broadcast station would learn if it was in the geographic area that the FCC considers to be affected by a disaster and thus subject to mandatory reporting.  In some instances, that would be obvious, but in many others, including those when stations might only be on the fringe of a disaster zone, it may not be immediately clear if reporting is required.