The FCC last week released a Public Notice reminding TV stations and other video programming providers, including cable and satellite television providers, of their obligation to make emergency information accessible for all viewers.  With a few tweaks, the reminder is very similar to what the FCC has issued in past years.  This year, the reminder added smoke from Canadian wildfires as a possible emergency about which stations might be distributing important safety information, joining a list that was only two years ago updated to include pandemics.  The FCC notice is to remind video providers of their obligations to make emergency information accessible to all of their audience, even those with visual or auditory disabilities. 

The FCC notice, in addition to wildfires and pandemics, provides examples of the kinds of emergencies that the rules are intended to cover – including “tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, tidal waves, earthquakes, icing conditions, heavy snows, widespread fires, discharge of toxic gases, widespread power failures, industrial explosions, civil disorders, school closings and changes in school bus schedules resulting from such conditions, and warnings and watches of impending changes in weather.”  The Commission considers the “critical details” about such emergencies to include “specific details regarding the areas that will be affected by the emergency, evacuation orders, detailed descriptions of areas to be evacuated, specific evacuation routes, approved shelters or the way to take shelter in one’s home, instructions on how to secure personal property, road closures, and how to obtain relief assistance.”Continue Reading FCC Reminder About Conveying Emergency Information in an Accessible Manner to All TV Audience Members

May is relatively light on scheduled regulatory deadlines for broadcasters, but the following dates are worthy of note.  In addition, always remember to keep in touch with your legal and regulatory advisors to make sure that you don’t overlook any regulatory deadlines that are specific to your station.

Comments are due on May 15, with reply comments due on June 13, on the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) requesting comment on a variety of proposed rules implementing the Low Power Protection Act (LPPA).  The LPPA provides certain low power television stations in small markets with a “limited window of opportunity” to apply to become Class A television stations with primary status, protecting them from interference from new or improved full-power stations.  The FCC is seeking comment on interpreting the eligibility requirements for stations seeking this status.Continue Reading May Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Rulemaking Comments on Various TV Issues and More

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC has requested comments on NAB’s petition asking the Commission to grant a two-year extension of the May 26,

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC this week reminded television broadcasters of their obligation to make televised emergency information accessible to persons with disabilities.

Under the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (commonly called the CVAA), the FCC has adopted many rules designed to enhance accessibility to broadcast communications, particularly those provided by television broadcasters.  In a recent Public Notice, the FCC asked for comments as to how the implementation of the CVAA has

In an Order released Friday, The FCC gave TV broadcasters five more years to convert non-textual emergency information delivered to audiences outside of news programs into speech that is broadcast on station’s Secondary Audio Programming (“SAP”) channels, usually used for Spanish and other non-English translations of television programs. Broadcasters, as we have written before

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

With the recent hurricanes and last night’s tragedy in Las Vegas, the FCC Public Notice issued last week reminding all video programmers of the importance of making emergency information accessible to all viewers seems very timely. The public notice serves as a good refresher on all of the obligations of video programmers designed to make emergency information available to members of the viewing audience who may have auditory or visual impairments that may make this information harder to receive. As the FCC also reminds readers of its notice of the ways in which to file complaints against video programming distributors who do not follow the rules, TV broadcasters need to be extremely sensitive to all of these requirements.

What are these obligations? These are some of the obligations highlighted by the FCC’s reminder:

  • For persons who are visually impaired, rules require that emergency information that is visually provided in a newscast also be aurally described in the main audio channel of the station.
  • When emergency information is provided outside of a newscast (e.g. in a crawl during entertainment programming), that information must be accompanied by an aural tone and then an audio version of the emergency information must be broadcast on a secondary audio channel (SAP channel) of a TV station at least twice. See our articles here, here and here about this obligation.
  • For persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, the Commission requires that emergency information provided in the audio portion of a broadcast also be presented visually, through methods including captioning, crawls or scrolls that do not block any emergency information provided through other visual means (like other captions or crawls).
  • For stations that are permitted to use electronic newsroom technique (ENT) captions, where ENT does not provide captions for breaking news and emergency alerts, stations must make emergency information available through some other visual means. See our post here on this obligation.
  • The FCC suggests, but does not require, that stations make emergency information available through multiple means (maps, charts, and other visual information) and in plain language, so that all viewers can understand the nature of any emergency.

Continue Reading FCC Reminder to Video Programming Distributors – Including Broadcasters – on Accessibility Obligations

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