NAB president willing to participate in natural disaster hearings

The National Association of Broadcasters last week expressed its willingness to work with the Federal Communications Commission as it conducts a series of field hearings to assess the nation’s communications ecosystem and its ability to stand up to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy.

The agency said Nov. 21 it will hold the field hearings with the first scheduled for early 2013 in Manhattan. No date or specific agenda have been set. In general, however, the hearings will examine the impact of Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters on communications networks and ways to improve their resiliency.

In a Nov. 27 letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and the four other FCC commissioners, NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith said radio and TV broadcasters from the Carolinas to Maine played a crucial role in keeping the public informed and serving their communities during and after the hurricane.

The stations “provided a remarkably resilient lifeline during Hurricane Sandy,” Smith said in the letter. “In many cities and for millions of people in Sandy's path, broadcasters were the only source of information during those difficult days.”

In its announcement of the field hearings, the FCC said it will seek input on steps that can be taken “to connect people better” to each other and emergency information sources “via mobile, landline, satellite, broadcast, cable, social media” and other avenues. It will also examine whether there are laws or regulations that are needed to accomplish this goal.

“Service to community is the lifeblood of the local broadcaster, and we take seriously our role as first informers during times of crisis,” Smith said in the letter.

As of Dec. 3, Dennis Wharton, NAB executive VP, communications, said the association has not received a response from the FCC, but that he “can’t imagine why we wouldn’t be included since stations performed remarkably well” in response to Hurricane Sandy.

An FCC spokesman noted the same day that the agency is aware of broadcasters’ interest in participating in the hearings. However, no agenda has yet been set up for the any of the hearings, he said.