According to Scott R. Flick, Pillsbury Law, one of the lessons Hurricane Katrina and subsequent disasters brought home is that in the modern age, communication is every bit as vital to saving lives as disaster relief supplies and helicopters. Catastrophes require more precise communications, such as telling people where they need to go to avoid or ride out the disaster, as well as where those disaster relief supplies can be found.  Broadcasters often clear the way for specific resupply missions.

Hidden in over 55,000 lines of text in the Consolidated Appropriations Act are just 20 lines that change the definition of “essential service provider” at a disaster site. Those twenty lines of text expand the definition of an essential service provider to include “radio or television broadcasting among other services essential to America”

As essential service providers, we are now empowered to access disaster areas under the provisions of existing law, which provides that:

Unless exceptional circumstances apply, in an emergency or major disaster, the head of a Federal agency, to the greatest extent practicable, shall not—

(a) deny or impede access to the disaster site to an essential service provider whose access is necessary to restore and repair an essential service; or

(b) Impede the restoration or repair of the [essential] services . . . .

Note: that the change only affects Federal officials, state laws providing broadcasters with First Informer or First Responder status are still needed for areas that are not Federal disaster areas. The MAB will be working on a similar bill for the State of Michigan.