Commission fines three TV stations for under-serving hearing impaired

March 4, 2005

The FCC Enforcement Bureau last week fined three San Diego-based television broadcasters for “willfully and repeatedly” violating a section of the Communications Act requiring stations to make available emergency information to those with hearing disabilities through closed captions.

The Enforcement Bureau found the stations, KFMB-TV, KUSI-TV and KGTV, each “apparently liable” for a forfeiture of $20,000 for failing to provide information about the Southern California wildfire emergency in October 2003 to members of their audience with hearing impairments.

During late October 2003, fast-moving, unpredictable wildfires ravaged parts of Southern California, including the San Diego area. Responding to a consumer complaint, the Enforcement Bureau launched an investigation and reviewed tapes for the stations’ coverage of the fires.

It found instances in which the stations failed to make available via visual presentation, such as closed captioning, in a timely fashion, if at all, emergency information for the hearing impaired that was reported in the aural portion of their programming.

As video programming distributors, the stations are obligated to provide to persons with hearing disabilities the same access to emergency information that it provides to listeners of their programming.

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