Four public television stations to take part in groundbreaking Mobile Emergency Alert System trial

Four public television stations will participate in a groundbreaking Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) pilot project funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and LG Electronics, PBS announced Nov. 30.

WGBH Boston, Vegas PBS (KLVX) in Las Vegas, and Alabama Public Television stations WBIQ (Birmingham) and WAIQ (Montgomery) are participating in the project to assess the potential of using an enhanced method of information sharing through Mobile DTV services now being deployed throughout the country.

The four stations have agreed to serve as test markets for the new M-EAS being developed by PBS and LG Electronics. By using terrestrial over-the-air TV broadcasting, rather than cellular network connectivity, M-EAS is expected to meet critical needs for emergency alerts. The goal of the project is to prove the viability of M-EAS, use existing standards with the cooperation of the public TV stations and create a template for deployment by public and commercial broadcasters.

The Mobile EAS project will evaluate the system’s capabilities for delivering multimedia alerts using video, audio, text and graphics to cellphones, tablets, laptops, netbooks and in-car navigation systems that avoid the congestion of cellular systems in emergencies.

PBS CTO John McCoskey said, “[A key goal of the M-EAS project is to develop] a system that can be easily replicated by both public and commercial broadcasters throughout the country and give access to vital emergency information to millions of viewers — regardless of the type of mobile device that they’re using to tune our channels.”

M-EAS requires no additional spectrum and will be an additional use of existing TV transmitters and towers. Standard equipment used to upgrade stations for transmission of Mobile DTV signals will be used.

LG Electronics and its U.S. R&D subsidiary, Zenith, will develop handheld mobile DTV devices to receive the new alerts and will provide funding for the project. Harris Broadcast and Roundbox will provide key components and technology for the project. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is providing matching grants to local public television stations for Mobile DTV broadcasting equipment and grant funding to assist PBS participation in this project.