Unauthorized EAS Messages Surface Again

Posted on November 26th, 2014 by

The FCC has announced a formal inquiry into circumstances surrounding an unauthorized Emergency Alert System (EAS) message transmitted in several states. The incident occurred in late October and involved the erroneous transmission of a national alert message on the syndicated Bobby Bones radio show.

The FCC wants to get to the bottom of it because the alert message had a date/time-stamp for a future date. In a public notice, the FCC has warned that some EAS equipment that did not broadcast the message in October may have queued it for transmission at a future date. The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has advised all EAS participants to immediately check with their equipment manufacturers to determine if they have this alert in queue for a future date, and if so, to find out what steps to take to eliminate the false alert before it is transmitted.

In connection with the public notice, the Public Safety Bureau also asked for information from EAS participants to better understand the message authentication process for EAS equipment and the impact of falsely transmitted messages.

When all is said and done, we expect the FCC to issue some sizable fines for the false transmissions. The last time this happened, the fines were nearly $2 million. If your station wishes to respond to the FCC’s notice, it has until December 5, 2014 to do so.

In a related matter, the FCC is seeking comment through December 30, 2014 on the implementation of its previously adopted voluntary communications best practices to improve the security of the EAS. Any information on barriers, breakthroughs or effectiveness is welcomed.