FCC commissioners yesterday approved an order requiring digital television and radio broadcasters to participate in the emergency alert system (EAS)—a mandate that currently affects only analog broadcasters.

Under the order, all digital TV broadcasters, digital audio broadcasters and satellite radio broadcasters are required to comply with the FCC’s current EAS rules by Dec. 31, 2006. Satellite TV broadcasters are required to comply with the EAS rules by May 31, 2007.

In addition, the order includes a notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks comment on a next-generation alert and warning system that utilizes all forms of communications.

“Hurricane Katrina—and Hurricanes Rita and Wilma—have only served to emphasize the need for a comprehensive and robust alert system that allows officials at the national, state and local levels to reach affected citizens in the most effective and efficient manner possible.” FCC Kevin Martin said. “This system should have built-in redundancy features. Among other things, it should incorporate the Internet, which was designed by the military to be robust and contains network redundancy functionalities.”