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FCC issues emergency information reminder

September 16, 2005

The FCC has issued a reminder to television broadcasters, cable operators and other video programming distributors of their obligation to provide the same emergency information visually as is broadcast in the audio portion of a telecast.

The commission published the reminder in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The FCC has already received complaints “that some emergency information being provided over television is not being made accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing,” the commission said.

The problem includes visual emergency information being blocked by other information on screen, and conversely, emergency information blocking closed-caption information.

FCC rules do not require emergency information to be presented as a closed caption. It may be presented in text crawls and scrolls or even handwriting on a blackboard, according to the commission. The commission stressed that this rule not only applies to the immediate area affected by Katrina “because, for example information such as how citizens may obtain relief assistance falls within the rule’s mandate,” the reminder said. The commission reminded program distributors, such as cable and satellite providers, of their obligation to pass through closed captioned emergency information broadcasters may insert into programming.

The FCC also instructed “entities that are permitted to count captions created using the electronic newsroom technique” that this method does not automatically caption non-scripted news so they are required to make emergency information accessible through means such as scrolls and crawls.

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