FCC Media Security and Reliability Council Adopts Recommendations for Broadcasters

The Media Security and Reliability Council adopted a list of recommended best practices for ensuring media facilities are able to continue to operate in times of a national emergency.

Media dependence on commercial communications satellites for national distribution was a major concern. MSRC recommended "the vulnerability of satellite infrastructure, especially TT&C, should continue to be examined and reinforced. Each major news source should consider alternatives to commercial communications satellites (e.g., DBS satellites, Internet, etc.) as a last-resort backup means of signal distribution even if technical signal quality is substantially degraded under such conditions." The MSRC document recognized copyright issues may be involved, but recommended "operators negotiate a reasonable solution."

MSRC technical recommendations for local broadcasters also focused on redundancy and cooperation between broadcasters. The recommendations include use of mobile radio and Internet to augment cellphones for communicating with external news services and remote news teams. MSRC also recommended having some means of receiving remote feeds at the tower site or at a cable headend and a way to deliver live news and information from a remote site or emergency studio using an ENG/SNG truck.

In addition, MSRC best practices state, "With the cooperation of federal and local policy makers, all television broadcasters in a market should collaborate to increase their collective site diversity and redundancy, including their collective news studios, operations, satellite transmit and receive facilities and transmitter and antenna sites." Stations should have redundant signal paths to their primary and backup transmission facilities and to their primary and backup satellite transmit and receive sites. TV stations should also plan for alternative paths to cable headends.

Alternatives suggested include:
* DTV transmitter to cable headend
* Downconverted to NTSC
* SNG to DBS to cable headend
* DBS to homes
* Cross-connecting cable systems
* Opening local-to-local DBS service to all subscribers on an emergency basis
* Low data rate Internet links; and portable microwave links

To the extent economically feasible, the same prevention approaches should be provided to DTV facilities, which may also have a role in providing backup to analog facilities.

MSRC recommended the federal government acquire and administer emergency response broadcast equipment packages. These would be self-contained VHF, UHF, AM and FM transmission units with mobile generators and sections for 500-foot and 100-foot towers. Where needed, the federal government would have authority to designate emergency channels for television and radio.

MSRC also said government should coordinate development of a Media Common Alert Protocol (MCAP) designed to deliver emergency messages via digital networks. "It should flow over all methods of digital transport and be received by all digital receivers." MSRC noted that the existing digital television toolset has capabilities that can be leveraged to create new emergency notification standards and practices.

This is only a sample of the 49 best practice recommendations adopted by MSRC. Other recommendations cover facility security, the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and best practices for radio stations and cable television. The FCC news release Homeland Security: Industry Leaders Adopt Recommendations to Ensure the Security of Media Facilities During Emergencies summarizes the recommendations. See the Media Security and Reliability Council - Adopted Best Practices Recommendations for the complete report. Also see the FCC Media Security and Reliability Council web page and www.mediasecurity.org, the Media Security and Reliability Council's own Web site.