Panel: Media Needs Terror Plans

Media companies should put their heads together and determine the risks to their reliability and security in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster, a high-powered FCC-appointed panel says. And a single federal entity should be responsible for public warning and risk communication on all hazards, according to the panel's preliminary recommendation of "best practices."

Those are among the guidelines generated by the Media Reliability and Security Council, a 41-person advisory committee established by the commission after the 9/11 attacks.

"September 11 was a wake-up call for all concerned-media, interest groups, government," said Dennis J. FitzSimons, MSRC chairman and president and CEO of Tribune Co. "We have to review what works and what doesn't. We simply have to communicate in a timely and accurate fashion. The public depends on us and we must come through."

MSRC presented the commission May 28 with recommendations from working groups. The full MSRC will vote on the statements by June 18.

Redundancy, redundancy and redundancy are among the panel's working groups' recommendations on keeping vital broadcast services going during an emergency. Coordination-among competing media outlets and between the public and private sectors-will also be vital, the groups said.

In recommendations awaiting a final vote June 18, the groups from the panel say the Emergency Alert System should be periodically tested, upgraded as necessary and implemented and maintained at local, state and national levels; and news media should share their resources with one another, or, as the proposal puts it, "consider agreements to allow flexibility in local use and retransmission of content under government declared emergencies."

On both a local and national level, media companies should reassess their vulnerabilities and take appropriate measures to prevent loss of service and expedite rapid recovery, the proposal says.

And to keep everyone communicating smoothly, the government should coordinate the creation of a Media Common Alert Protocol to deliver emergency messages via digital networks.

The next MSRC meeting will be Nov. 6, 2003.