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Katrina Assistance Efforts Continue

While lawmakers and lobbyists gear up to fight for their various agendas, there is none among them whose thoughts aren't turned toward the grievously injured Crescent City.

The broadcast and cable lobbies both launched assistance initiatives. The National Association of Broadcasters teamed with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army to distribute 10,000 battery-operated handheld radios to residents displaced by the hurricane. The NAB also joined broadcasters in Louisiana and Mississippi in distributing 1,300 battery-powered handeld TV to public safety officials assisting in the relief efforts. Additionally, the lobby launched BroadcastUnity, a Web site to provide resources for broadcasters undertaking their own relief efforts. An unrelated site, The Newsmarket is offering free broadcast-quality footage of various relief efforts.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association established the Cable Hope Fund, a 501 c-3 to help cable industry employees and other hurricane victims get back on their feed. Donations to the fund can be sent to the NCTA in care of David Pierce, senior director of public affairs, at 1724 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.

Belo has established a similar program for its own employees affected by the hurricane. The company owns CBS affiliate WWL-TV, which normally broadcasts from the Vieux Carre, but had to move operations to Baton Rouge when the area was evacuated. Belo created the WWL-TV Employee Relief Fund to help staff and their families. The general public is invited to make contributions in care of The Belo Foundation at P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, Texas, 75265-5237.

Several individual cable programming networks also launched relief efforts, including Red Cross information crawls, public service announcements, benefits, telethons, matching employee donations and sizable corporation donations.

CNN has also added a Victim's and Relief Desk to the newsroom, where separated family members can search for loved ones. CNN crews in the hurricane-affected areas have been dispatched to shoot video of such people, stating their names, locations and physical condition so others may know they're OK.

The FCC has also turned all of its efforts to mitigating communications breakdowns in the hurricane zone. On Thursday, Chairman Kevin Martin and Commissioner Michael Copps visited communities in the region and "witnessed first hand the impact of the storm on the residents and the region's telecommunications infrastructure," according to a release from the FCC.

Martin and Copps issued the following statement: "We are encouraged that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, carriers are working day and night to speed the restoration of service in Gulf State communities. We salute the Herculean efforts of their employees--many of whom have experienced terrible personal loss and property damage in this tragic storm. We are committed to doing everything within our power to aid these extraordinary recovery efforts. In the days ahead, the challenge will be facilitating service restoration. But in the long term, we will need to learn from this event and work together to improve the reliability, survivability, and security of our nation's telecommunications networks."