- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Television and radio stations should be required to air emergency disaster and security warnings in multiple languages, according to a petition that several trade and activist groups filed with the Federal Communications Commission yesterday.

The Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and the United Church of Christ urged the FCC to require broadcasters to air multilingual warnings during emergencies.

Broadcasting & Cable, an industry publication, reported the petition on its Web site.

The petition cited Hurricane Katrina, which knocked the only Spanish-language TV station in New Orleans off the air for more than a week, robbing residents who speak only Spanish of “vital information concerning the path of the storm, where and how to seek shelter, and how to remain healthy and safe in the aftermath of the storm.”

The FCC began considering new requirements for emergency broadcasts last year. No matter what the agency decides, the groups behind the petition said the FCC should make multilingual warnings mandatory during the interim.

“After Katrina, everyone is hoping there won’t be a next time. Unfortunately, with Mother Nature, there always is,” said Gloria Tristani, managing director of the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communications and a Democrat who served as an FCC commissioner during the Clinton administration.

Frank Montero, acting executive director of the Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association, said that if the FCC adopts a requirement for multilingual warnings, “it must be feasible. My group doesn’t want to do anything that wants to make non-Spanish station opponents to this. This really has to be a collaborative effort.”

Katrina response

Speaking of the FCC: The agency’s chairman, Kevin J. Martin, a Republican, announced plans last week to spend $211 million to begin rebuilding the communications infrastructure in the Gulf Coast states.

Mr. Martin also said the FCC will create a bureau to coordinate the agency’s future disaster management work, and that he will appoint a blue-ribbon panel to study the FCC’s response to Katrina.

Nielsen touchdown

ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) drew an average 587,900 households during the Washington Redskins’ triumph over the Dallas Cowboys on “Monday Night Football” this week, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc.

The game delivered about 244,500 households to WJLA’s late news.

Mr. Plotkin responds

Last week, this column reported on the swipe D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams took at the news media on his new blog. Hizzoner even took a jab at Mark Plotkin, political commentator at WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM).

“Obviously, the mayor has too much free time. I’m glad to provide any momentary relief from the rigors of office and extensive world travel,” Mr. Plotkin said.

Emmy time

A few local television operations picked up honors at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards Monday in New York, including the Silver Spring-based Discovery Channel and “Nightline,” which is produced here but soon may be relocated to New York, according to the chatter around ABC News’ Washington bureau.

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