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'Emergency' fines for broadcasters

Published:Sunday | November 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

BROADCASTERS who fail to immediately air certain news releases or dispatches from the Office of Disaster Management and Emergency Management (ODPEM) under the provision of the proposed Disaster Risk Management Act could face fines of up to $200,000 in a Resident Magistrate's Court.

The sanction has been proposed in the Disaster Risk Management Bill, which states that every broadcaster should ensure that scheduled or designated times are made available for dissemination of information on related disasters.

The bill, which cleared the House one month ago, was passed in the Senate with eight amendments recently. The amendments do not impact proposals relating to the role of broadcasters in the dissemination of information on disasters. If the Senate amendments are approved by the House, the bill will be sent to the governor general for his signature.

National alert tone

Broadcasters are required to use a national alert tone when requested by the ODPEM, and to immediately take steps to broadcast new releases designated as "urgent" or "emergency".

In addition to creating a national alert tone, which will be the distinct sound to indicate there is a disaster situation, the scheme of the bill calls for the creation of a national siren system, which will be part of a national alert system.

Broadcasters are required to use the national alert tone at the start and end of national emergency announcements.

Read in its entirety

Each news item and public-service announcement submitted by ODPEM is to be read in its entirety as issued from the National Operations Centre, the bill proposes.

The director general of the ODPEM will have the responsibility for the supervision of a National Emergency Broadcast System which will be aimed at enabling the Government to broadcast emergency announcements directly from the National Emergency Operations Centre to the public.

The broadcasts can be made on any frequency or in a manner, as specified in a memorandum of understanding between the Government and the entity who is licensed to engage in public broadcasting, radio rediffusion or telecommunication.