WV Lawmakers Consider 'First Informer Broadcasters Act' - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV Lawmakers Consider 'First Informer Broadcasters Act'

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North Central West Virginia had its fair share of severe weather in recent years.

Superstorm Sandy and the derecho damaged homes and cars. They also caused power outages throughout the region.

Emergency responders said the media helps spread important information in emergency situations. When those sources lose power, it makes things more difficult for dispatchers.

"We had significant issues with broadcasters going off the air," said Paul Bump, Harrison County 911 Director. "Anything that hampers them at getting their systems back on is problematic for us. We have information we have to get out, and our broadcast partners are our best way to get information out to the largest audience at a time."

The media is given special access at baseball games, concerts and other events. But when a major storm strikes, the media is no different from the general public.

Some state representatives think that needs to change. Senate Bill 353, the First Informer Broadcasters Act, could be that change.

"It would identify media sources in such a way that during a disaster, they would get adequate supplies to refuel, electricity, regenerate so they can be a part of getting information out to the public and public safety," said Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley.

It would also allow broadcasters to travel on otherwise closed roads.

"Police would allow them to go ahead and go," Unger said.

Unger said the most controversial issue with the bill right now is figuring out how to define the media.

"The question would be, what's media, and that would have to be defined," Unger said.

The bill was introduced on February 22, 2013. It is scheduled to be voted on in the Senate Wednesday, March 13. If it passes the Senate, it would then go to the House of Delegates for its consideration.