In 2015, TV broadcasters were required to convert textual warnings about emergency events that are broadcast outside of news programs (e.g. weather alerts that are displayed as textual crawls during entertainment programming) into audio, and to transmit that audio on the station’s SAP channel. The deadline for that requirement was extended, and then paired back when the FCC determined that some of the events that might be listed in textual alerts, like school closing information during winter weather, could not feasibly be broadcast in a timely fashion on the SAP channel (see our summary here). The text-to-speech requirement for broadcast of emergency information on the SAP channel did go into effect on November 30, 2015. But the FCC extended the deadline for converting non-textual information (such as weather graphics) into speech for broadcast on the SAP channel, as no ready technology for such conversion exists. The most recent extended deadline for compliance with the requirement for non-textual information to be converted to audio runs through May 26 of this year (see our article here). The FCC has just issued a Public Notice announcing that the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the National Association of Broadcasters have now asked for a further extension of the compliance deadline, as no technology for this graphics to speech conversion yet exists.
The parties ask for a 5 year extension of the compliance deadline to find a solution that will allow non-textual information to be converted to audio, and the groups pledge to continue to work together to find a solution. The FCC asks for comments on this proposed extension. Comments are due by April 13, 2018 with replies due by April 20, 2018. In the interim, of course, all obligations of TV stations to convert textual alerts run during non-news programs to audio alerts broadcast on a TV station’s SAP channel remain in place.