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New closed captioning requirements for 2004

The commission is reminding video programming distributors that the closed captioning benchmarks for new English and Spanish non-exempt video programming took effect on Jan. 1, 2004, and will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2005. “New” programming is defined as analog video programming that was first published or exhibited on or after Jan. 1, 1998, or digital video programming first published or exhibited on or after Jan. 1, 2002. The benchmarks apply to analog and digital new programming.

With regard to new non-exempt English-language programming, a video distributor shall provide at least 1350 hours of captioned video programming per channel, per quarter. If the programmer has fewer than 1350 hours of new non-exempt English-language programming, then all of its English-language programming must be captioned.

With regard to new non-exempt Spanish-language programming, 900 hours of programming must be closed captioned per channel, per quarter. This benchmark increases the requirement from 450 hours. The benchmark for 100 percent captioning of new nonexempt Spanish-language programming is not until Jan. 1, 2010, so there will be another partial increase in this requirement on Jan. 1, 2006. These closed captioning requirements are separate from programmers' obligations to make emergency information accessible to persons with vision and hearing disabilities.

FTC gives warning on weight-loss products

Obesity is an epidemic in America, and so are false advertisements for weight-loss products that promise lots of gain without much pain, says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC wants broadcasters and other media outlets to screen out commercials for slim-down products that make claims they can't possibly deliver.

The FTC recommends that broadcasters “red flag” advertisements for non-prescription drugs, skin patches, dietary supplements, creams, or other products that are worn on the body or rubbed into the skin if they claim that the product in question can do any of the following things: cause weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise; cause substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the consumer eats; cause permanent weight loss (even when the consumer stops using the product); block the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight; safely enable consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks; or cause substantial weight loss for all users.

After flagging these types of ads, the FTC recommends that broadcasters demand proof of their claims. Without proof, the FTC implores — but does not require — broadcasters to refuse to run a spot. The FTC provides tips on evaluating weight-loss claims at its Web site:

The advertisers themselves face legal action for false and misleading claims. The FCC generally defers to the FTC on deceptive advertising issues in which the station is nothing more than a paid conduit for the advertiser's claims. But the FTC does caution that a broadcast outlet can put at risk the credibility of all of its advertisers, legitimate and otherwise, by advertising bogus items.

Harry C. Martin is an attorney with Fletcher,Heald & Hildreth PLC, Arlington,VA.

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Television stations in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia must begin their pre-filing renewal announcements on April 1, 2004, in preparation for renewal application filing on June 1, 2004. Ownership reports without filing fees must be filed with 2004 renewals. Other television stations renewal application filing dates in 2004 are:

Station location Renewal filing date North Carolina, South Carolina Aug. 1 Florida, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands Oct. 1 Alabama, Georgia Dec. 1

Also on April 1, stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia must place their annual EEO reports in their public files.