Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, is sponsoring legislation to designate certain broadcasters as "first response broadcasters" in an effort to make it easier for broadcasters to maintain service and inform the public of vital information during disasters and national emergencies.
Landrieu announced the First Response Broadcasters Act of 2007, co-sponsored by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, during her April 16 keynote at NAB2007.
The bill designates local radio and TV stations providing essential disaster-related programming as "first response broadcasters" and opens access to federal supplies of fuel, water and food.
Although emergency services, healthcare facilities and public utilities will top the government's priority list in an emergency, the bill would protect broadcasters' independently secured supplies from federal government seizure except in the most dire cases of emergency need. The government confiscated fuel from Mississippi broadcasters following Hurricane Katrina.
The Landrieu-Stevens legislation also directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to expedite access to the disaster area by broadcast engineers to restore transmitters and other key broadcast facilities and infrastructure. To better protect these critical-to-air facilities, the bill establishes a Broadcast Disaster Preparedness Matching Grant Program. The grants could be used to protect, upgrade or enhance facilities and infrastructure to better position stations to continue providing vital public information during a disaster.
The legislation does not guarantee newsgathering personnel expedited access to a disaster area. It does, however, establish that the responsible local agencies prior to a disaster will determine access by the news media after such an event.
Landrieu is the chairman of the Disaster Recovery Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Stevens is the subcommittee's ranking member.
The National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio-Television News Directors Association have both endorsed the legislation.
For more information, visit landrieu.senate.gov/broadcasters.