08.01.2003 12:00 PM
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Commission reminds broadcasters, others of obligation to make emergency information accessible to visually, aurally disabled

As severe thunderstorms and tornados strike the Midwest, Hurricane Claudette slams into Texas and wildfires rip through the West, the FCC last week issued a public notice reminding video programming distributors of their obligation to make emergency warnings and information accessible to those with hearing impairments and visual disabilities.

According to the notice, video programming distributors' include broadcasters, satellite television service providers and cable operators.

In case of an emergency everyone needs to be alerted. That's why the FCC is reminding program providers to make emergency warnings and information accessible to those with hearing impairments and visual disabilities.

The notice, which is available on the commission’s Web site, pointed out that the FCC has received “a number of complaints” from the public about the failure of video programming distributors to make local emergency information accessible to viewers with hearing disabilities.

Those who have complained to the commission cited “failures in providing visual information” about the direct paths of dangerous weather conditions. Some also complained of similar failings when it came to non-weather related emergencies “and the precautions needed to respond to those conditions,” while others found fault with some video distributors that blocked critical visual on-screen emergency information with other information on the screen.

According to the notice, video programming distributors obligation for “persons who are deaf or hard of hearing” is to provide closed captioning or other visual presentation methods like open captioning, scrolls or crawls of emergency information being presented in the audio portion of programming. “Emergency information provided by means other than closed captioning should not block any closed captioning, and, closed captioning should not block any emergency information provided by means other than closed captioning.”

Program providers also must provide “oral description of emergency information in the main audio.” Further, the notice said: “If the emergency information is being provided in the video portion of programming that is not a regularly scheduled newscast or a newscast that interrupts regular programming (e.g., the programmer provides the emergency information through ‘crawling’ or ‘scrolling’ during regular programming), this information must be accompanied by an aural tone. This tone is to alert persons with vision disabilities that the video programming distributor is providing emergency information, and alert such persons to tune to another source, such as a radio, for more information.”

For text of rule 47 C.F.R. § 79.2. and related fact sheets, please visit www.fcc.gov/cgb and http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/emergencyvideo.html.

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