APTS Pushes Back on Proposed Funding Cut for Emergency Alerts

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Following a vote by the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee to recommend reduced spending of $40 million for fiscal year 2024 for the Next Generation Warning System (NGWS) supporting public broadcasting’s public safety infrastructure, the America’s Public Television Stations issued a statement highlighting the importance of the program that urged Congress to restore the funding.

“In these times of severe budget constraint, America’s public television stations are grateful that the subcommittee proposed $40 million to continue the Next Generation Warning System,” said Patrick Butler, president and CEO of APTS. “But this level of funding represents a $16 million cut from the current appropriation for NGWS, and we are hopeful that at least level funding will be approved in the final appropriation by Congress later this year.

“Public safety and civil defense are essential parts of public television’s mission to serve the American people,” he continued. “Public broadcasting stations reach 99% of the American population, and we are the only local media in many communities, making our work in alert and warning critical to the safety of people and communities throughout the country. Public television’s digital infrastructure provides the backbone for emergency alert, public safety, first responder, and homeland security services in many States and communities, including many local stations that serve as their States’ primary Emergency Alert Service (EAS) hub for severe weather and AMBER alerts.”

Butler also stressed that “public television has partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system that enables cell subscribers to receive geo-targeted text messages in the event of an emergency — reaching them wherever they are in times of crisis, even if the internet is disrupted. Between March of 2020 and January of 2022, over 13,000 WEAs were sent to millions of mobile devices using the WEA system. This program is critical to ensuring that public broadcasting station infrastructure can continue to reliably provide alert, warning and interoperable communications and incorporate enhanced technology in those lifesaving activities.” 

In addition “[p]ublic television stations have worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to demonstrate the effectiveness of our public safety communications capability in flood control and evacuation, school shooting scenarios, large crowd management, over-water emergency communications and other life-saving applications,” he continued. “Public television stations have also partnered with the California Office of Emergency Services to reduce the early earthquake warning standard from 30 seconds to less than 3 seconds. We’ve built a Statewide Emergency Communications Network with the State of Tennessee, public media stations in Florida created an emergency network that delivers up-to-the minute weather and news reports during severe weather events in Florida and South Carolina, and we’ve pursued many other alert and warning initiatives across America.”

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.