Powell: Disaster Recovery Plans on Paper Aren't Enough

by Leslie Stimson

"If you have a disaster recovery plan and you don't rehearse it, you don't have one." So said FCC Chairman Michael Powell to representatives from the broadcast, cable and satellite industries gathered in Washington to present more than 50 recommendations for ensuring stations remain on the air or can quickly re-gain the ability to transmit a signal in the event of further terrorist attacks or natural disasters in this country. The group, called the Media Security and Reliability Council, is patterned after a similar group for the wired and wireless telephone industries.

In an assessment of radio, TV and cable outlet that have a disaster recovery plans, MSRC found that only 7% of Radio, 17% of TV and 58% of cable outlets surveyed had rehearsed those plans. Powell called the figures "disturbing."

He said it's imperative for broadcasters to open discussions with competitors now about helping each other out in a catastrophic situation.

Bruce Allan of Harris Broadcast Communications said the group found few reciprocity agreements in place for studios or transmitters to ensure signal availability among competitors.

"None of the manufacturers can make a transmitter overnight," he cautioned participants.

He said the group believes there is enough equipment redundancy in place if stations would coordinate efforts.

Members plan to vote on the recommendations by Nov. 26 and conduct a workshop on the recommendations in Tampa on Dec. 2.

Still to be finalized are national level, DBS and satellite radio assessments.

Ideally, the group hopes to have the recommendations, which would be implemented by stations voluntarily, finalized by March.