The BDR

The
Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

... edited by Barry Mishkind - the Eclectic Engineer    

Some comments on the EB's actions regarding KWVE. (My editorial is here.) Your comments are welcome, too. Please use the contact link below.

Comments from:

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By Tom Ray, VP/Corporate Director of Engineering, Buckley Broadcasting, NYC

12/9/09

Not all of us think the EAS system is broken and can’t be fixed. The EAS system has limitations – real world limitations that we have to live within – and it’s our jobs as Engineers and Broadcasters to make it work as best it can within those limitations.

I’ve recently re-formed the LECC here in NYC – something we’ve been without for a very long time. So far, we have revamped the LP-1 structure, taken a great deal of control back to the broadcasters from the City’s OEM, and are working on backup plans to get us the info we need when normal methods fail. 

I had been trying to get involved with the LECC and the SECC since I started at WOR 12 years ago. When OEM screwed up four Monthly's this summer – and there was *no* reasonable explanation we could log - I took the bull by the gonads, called the SECC and informed them I was reforming the LECC, that I was the Chairman, and I was hoping we could have their support. No compromise. We all have licenses to protect, and the LECC here is also part of SBE 15 (NYC is also very different from the rest of NY State, and is treated as a separate entity for EAS – almost like its own state). 

Very basic: If you don’t like what EAS is in your area, talk to the LECC and/or the SECC. If there is no LECC and no real direction, talk to the SECC, then take the bull by the horns and form an LECC - and make it work. If you’re going to sit around and complain and go no further, you get what you get. If you become involved, you can help steer it in the "right" direction. 

Understand: the system, as it is, has limitations, and work with those limitations to make it the best it can be. That is what an Engineer does. 

WOR becomes an LP-1 (finally!) on January 1. There are 5 LP-1’s in NYC – we all have alternate facilities, all are built to stay on the air, and all have the commitment to make EAS work. Our mission is to make EAS work and save lives if it comes to that. Our goal is to make the interface between the City’s OEM and the LP-1 stations as cohesive as it can be so the message gets out and gets out quickly. Once we got past the "we’re the broadcasters, this affects our licenses, so we’re in charge – it’s up to you to provide the message, then it becomes our job to get the message out" initial phase, we are finding a good relationship with OEM.

And for anyone who mentions that "EAS was not used and did not work on 9/11" – EAS is an early warning system, and a system to be used to disseminate information when an event has occurred. We had no warning. We did not (nor did any government agency) know what was going on. We had no indication the twin towers would collapse. There was no information to disseminate. And, very frankly, within 5 minutes of the first plane, at least 80% of the stations, both TV and radio, in the market were on the story – live. 100% of the stations were on the story within the first 45 minutes. EAS was not activated and was not attempted to be activated. This is not why we reformed the LECC. We reformed it to make changes and make it work.

TR

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By Paul Sakrison, KLAA, Los Angeles OM, CE, IT

11/26/09

I am a member of the Orange County (CA) EAS Committee. I was involved with and was for a time Chairman of this committee years ago when we put the current plan together. It was decided, due to KWVE's close proximity to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station ("SONGS"), that they would be both the LP-1 for the Operational Area and an originator. If there were an emergency at SONGS, emergency warnings could go through the County of Orange Communications Center (LP-2 "Control One") or if Control One is not reachable, then direct in to KWVE to originate the messages. We felt that this was in the public interest, as the distance and line of sight between SONGS and Control One are issues.

After my experience at KNX (LP-1) and KFWB (PEP) I have come to think all EAS messages must be originated by government agencies. There is too much liability in having a broadcaster put together and originate an EAS message. As we saw in the KWVE instance, mistakes happen, unintentional errors that do no damage, but that could have serious financial burdens. With KNX and KFWB, all RMTs and Activations came in from government originators and were forwarded by the LP-1 and PEP stations.

There is no "down" side to exclusive government origination, as when they botch RMTs and Activations, and they have botched numerous tests, the FCC has no jurisdiction and no one is punished. We work with the government originators to help them improve their skills and facilities to try to improve the system.

Currently, the Orange County plan rotates the RMT originations between Control One and KWVE each month. In coming meetings we may decide to leave KWVE as LP-1 but that all message originations must be generated by governmental agencies. I think we give up an important backup warning connection regarding SONGS, but that may be necessary to satisfy the regulators and minimize the voluntary broadcasters' liabilities.

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By Warren Shulz, SECC Chair, IL, WLS CE

11/20/09

In review, the FCC Enforcement Bureau (EB) waived the forfeiture assessed against KWVE-FM for an EAS test that contained a human error - after 50 broadcast associations combined to address this NAL action with a letter of concern to the FCC Commissioners.

As a result, the Enforcement Bureau made the forfeiture moot, and admonished (means: warn about, give warning or, reprimand) KVWE-FM for its human error in transmitting an inadvertent Required Monthly Test (RMT) that caused the local operational area to lock on their programming of KWVE-FM until a two-minute timeout occurred. (The operator at KVWE-FM inadvertently truncated the end of message data burst of the RMT and those monitoring downstream were left hanging onto the programming of KWVE-FM until the EAS units downstream timed out.)

For a few minutes radio stations, TV stations, and cable operators downstream in this operational area (monitoring KVWE-FM-LP-1) carried the audio program of KWVE-FM. This is how the wireless daisy chain works.

The Enforcement Bureau should have stopped at that point, but went on to require KWVE-FM to reply with a compliance report. At first you might reply with training procedures, state plan compliance and so forth.

But wait! As I step backed and looked at this issue I suspect we have a uncovered major flaw in many state plans, where LP stations are creating the Required Monthly Test for their operational area.

The RMT should originate from the government entry point to perform a full end-to-end test. An untested system is useless. This is much like the EAN code not being testing. (Our Presidential Alert system has been in place for 58 years awaiting an activation over a system that has never been tested end-to-end with the actual EAN alert code. If that is not crazy, I don't know what is.)

A compliance report from KWVE-FM might include these facts:

KWVE-FM-LP1 should report to the EB they modified their role in the state plan to remove KWVE-FM from being an originator of the Required Monthly Tests. The RMTs need to originate at a government agency and KWVE-FM act as a relay station of the RMT.

This then becomes the teachable moment and saves face with the EB; a win-win for all and a lesson learned. The RMT should be a full end-to-end test (including the governmental agency who would issue an emergency alert). Broadcast stations should not issue an alert - they are the relay component of the alert from a government source.

If an LP is a RMT originator the chain is not being tested end-to-end and the emergency alert center staff misses an opportunity to drill the system and confirm it will actual work when needed. If an area cannot get a government agency to work with them they need to get to work to bring local and state plans into a functional operation.

In Illinois we have excellent co-operation with our state EOC staff. We have an EAS unit at the state EOC that links (via a state-owned two-way radio system) to the states’ 34 LP stations. We also have set up so the governor can email an audio file to the EOC and the EOC staff can transmit that audio message over the EAS as the alert message.

Warren


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By Richard Rudman:

11/18/09

First, I am willing to go on record with my personal views. I am not
speaking as a member of the SBE's EAS Committee or as the Vice Chair
of the California SECC.

I saw Marcos at the SBE Chapter 47 meeting this past week in Burbank
when I did a program on upcoming changes to EAS. This was before
word from him yesterday on the FCC's apparent decision. After
reading ORDER DA 09-2421 from the FCC, I was heartened that they
said they were "mindful of the unique circumstances at issue,
including the voluntary and critical nature of the service provided
by local primary stations in enabling statewide EAS activity, as
well as the isolated nature of the particular violation..."

I made it clear to Marcos before the Chapter meeting started that I
thought the FCC should set aside the NAL. However, simply setting
aside the NAL and fine but "Admonishing" KVWE still sends a terrible
message to what is at its heart a volunteer effort supporting the
EAS mandate as outlined in Part 11. There are lessons to be learned
here. In their ORDER I would have hoped they would not only set
aside the NAL, burt would also label what happened as a clear call
that improvements to EAS must come about sooner rather than later. I
would have preferred the FCC to use the word "Remind" or "Caution"
rather than "Admonish."

The FCC's "Admonishment" as outlined in ORDER DA 09-2421 still sends
the message received by LECC and SECC volunteers as well as LP
stations that good deeds will be punished. The proper corrective
action by the FCC and all stakeholders should be to rectify
deficiencies in EAS equipment and procedures that allow an EAS event
to be aired without sending an EOM.

I would hope that FEMA, the FCC, the EAS practitioner community and
the EAS device vendor community all take lessons out of this that
fail-safes should be put in place to lessen the chance this can
happen, and that the current LP distribution model should be done
away with as part of changes being considered to the EAS. The added
data "payload" for EAS Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) messages alone
rules out using the LP distribution model. It also give us the
opportunity to bring the emergency warning community formally into
the EAS process. Nothing in the current Part 11 does that. The legal
if not moral duty to issue warnings to a public at risk lies at the
government level. Broadcasting is (and should only be) a conduit for
warnings issued by those in charge.

In my view, all testing of EAS should be done from warning centers.
RWT's are useless. RMT's that do not have embedded audio and do not
originate from a warning center are not meaningful tests. Hopefully
new EAS equipment will have the capability for both closed circuit
testing and end-to-end testing with the added benefit of feedback
from EAS boxes at broadcast stations and cable systems.

Finally, I believe that Orange County emergency management does have
great dedication to EAS and has from the start. The citizens of
Orange County are fortunate for this as well as fortunate to have
KWVE as their LP station. KWVE takes their voluntary EAS mission
very, very seriously.

I am encouraged that KWVE will protest the FCC's decision in the
ORDER, and hope that the EAS community will continue to support
telling the FCC to, as Dr. Laura keeps telling us, to "do the right
thing."

Richard


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By Adrienne Abbott

11/18/09

Like everyone else here, I thought that KWVE had committed a very minor infraction of the EAS rules and one which probably 95% of the Local Primary stations in this country, including several of mine, have “violated” at least once in the past year. So has the National Weather Service and according to the reports I see from Southern California, so has the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. I don't think this situation rises to the level where it warrants an admonition from the FCC. 

The Big Difference here is that the FCC has no authority over NOAA and LASD nor over any of the numerous other law enforcement, fire and public safety agencies that have their own ENDECS and launch RMT’s for their Operational Areas and have been known to biff an activation. Yes, someone who probably spent some $$$ on a cable TV movie complained because he heard a promo for a religious radio station and an advertisement for a church. Would it have made any difference if it was a promo for an Hispanic station and an ad in Spanish? Or any other ethnic broadcast? Would the guy have complained about gum on the floor if he had paid to see the movie at a theatre? And if so, would the cops have arrested the theatre owner? 

Nothing­or at least, very little--is served if the FCC continues to prosecute this complaint and others like it. Yeah, the cable viewer who complained gets some jollies, but the even an admonition shows the broadcast industry that the government places little value on this area of unique community service that they provide. And the admonition comes at the same time that the FCC and Congress are demanding that broadcasters do more to serve their communities. And it comes as we in Nevada are trying to integrate our state and local law enforcement, public safety and emergency management officials into a seamless, statewide EAS network and their training includes launching those routine tests. 

EAS tests will always come with mistakes. But we’ve considered those mistakes the price of getting it right when the real thing happens. And here in Nevada, we don’t just let them go by. We stop and examine them and figure out what happened and document them and move on. If we don’t we’re not learning anything and we can’t make the system better. I can show you the emails and phone notes from the mistakes we’ve made except now we've been put on notice that any mistake in a test is grounds for an NOV and I guess I should destroy my notes! 

Now, as state chair, a volunteer position, I’ve got the additional worry that something might go wrong with the next weekly or monthly test and one of our stations could end up with a fine and a big legal bill. This is supposed to help my community? 

As I’ve said before, this FCC action will have a chilling effect on a station’s willingness to participate in EAS especially those who have made the extra commitment to serve as a Local Primary stations in areas where there is no local or state relay.

Even with “just an admonition” hanging out there against a Southern California station, the managers of Local Primary stations will continue to rethink their participation. Who wants to go through what KWVE has just endured? The FCC needs to stand up for the LP stations and any station that participates in EAS and they should apologize to KWVE for the time, money and worry they’ve cost the station rather than writing them a letter of admonition and expecting the rest of us in the EAS community to be thankful for their decision not to fine KWVE. 

Adrienne


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By Curt "Cowboy' Flick:

11/19/09

It's my opinion that the fine should most certainly be more than waived, but rescinded in entirety, and no "admonishments" are in order, either.

There was a successful test, which is what the rules require.
The test successfully exposed a mistake, which was then corrected.
EXACTLY what the rules require *is* what this fine was for !!
This station is being fined for *complying* with the rules.
THAT's what's very, very wrong in this whole scenario.

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