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This paper presents a brief description of the ALERT system, which is under development by a consortium working on a research project sponsored by the European Commission. The ALERT system uses advanced speech recognition technology and video processing techniques in order to process large broadcast speech archives and multimedia information resources for the purpose of extracting specific information from such databases and inform selected customers about its contents. It is one of the most ambitious projects currently carried out in the human language technologies (HLT) area (see also http://alert.uni-duisburg.de). The paper describes the objectives of the overall system, its basic system architecture and the scientific approach taken in order to realize the specified demonstrators.