The FCC released an order last week giving TV stations an additional 18 months to comply with a requirement that emergency information conveyed to the TV audience during non-news programming in a visual or graphical manner (e.g. on-screen weather maps during entertainment programming) be converted to audio that is broadcast on the TV station’s SAP
With the approach of Hurricane Matthew to the coast of the southeast United States, emergency communications is a high priority for all media outlets. Emergency communications have also been a hot issue at the FCC – with 3 notices in the last week dealing with this important subject. One notice was to provide emergency contact information at the FCC which will be available 24 hours a day during the Hurricane for any assistance that the agency can provide. A second notice was a reminder of how broadcasters (particularly television broadcasters) need to make emergency information accessible. Information that is provided through spoken word must also be made available visually to the hearing impaired, and information that is presented visually must be provided aurally to those who are blind. The third notice asks for comments on the possible extension of time for the waiver of the obligation that TV broadcasters convert certain emergency information presented visually on-screen into audio on a SAP channel for those that are blind or otherwise visually impaired.
The 24-hour hotline (FCC information here) is a service that the FCC instituted many years ago during similar emergencies to help any licensed communications service to the extent possible. In some cases, the response may simply be an immediate response to a request for a temporary authorization to maintain service during the emergency. During Hurricane Katrina, I was asked by a client to talk to people manning the FCC’s emergency number about helping get a fuel truck bringing gasoline to power auxiliary generators at broadcast stations past FEMA roadblocks keeping traffic out of the worst-hit area. I don’t know if the call to the FCC did it, but the truck did get the authorization to enter the restricted area and the station was able to keep operating. So use this number if needed during the emergency.
Continue Reading Emergency Communications Updates: FCC Hotline for Hurricane Matthew, Reminder on Accessibility of Emergency Warnings, and Possible Extension for Audio Conversion of Certain Visual Emergency Information
The FCC yesterday granted extensions requested by the National Association of Broadcasters and by the American Cable Association of the deadlines for implementation of obligations to convert emergency information conveyed in text (usually in on-screen crawls) on television broadcasts into audio to be broadcast on a TV station’s SAP channel (the second audio programming channel usually used for second-language program audio, e.g. a Spanish audio version of English-language programming). This “Audible Crawl Rule” was set to become effective yesterday. The extension of the basic requirement for TV broadcasters to convert the text of crawls containing emergency announcements to speech has been postponed six months, until November 30. Certain related obligations (to provide audio descriptions of non-textual information like weather radar maps, and to include school closing information among the emergency information provided under the Audio Crawl Rule) have been extended further into the future.
The NAB’s request for extension (about which we wrote here) was based on three different issues. The first was the NAB’s finding that the equipment to generate speech from textual crawls was not yet widely available in the marketplace, so most TV stations simply did not have the time to install the equipment to meet the FCC’s requirement. Groups representing the visually-impaired community expressed concern with the delays, but nevertheless agreed to the six month extension granted by the FCC yesterday.
Continue Reading FCC Extends Deadline for TV Stations to Convert Emergency Information in Textual Crawls to Audio on SAP Channels
The FCC two years ago adopted a rule requiring that television stations that provide emergency information visually (e.g. through open captions or crawls), outside of news programming, convert that emergency information into audio and run that audio on SAP channels (secondary audio programming channels – usually used for Spanish language translations of English-language programs). That…