FCC considers placing emergency audio on secondary transport streams

The details of the FCC’s thinking are included in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued on Nov. 19 on making emergency information accessible to blind people. This rulemaking is a requirement of the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.

“This NPRM proposes to make televised emergency information more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired by requiring the use of a secondary audio stream to provide emergency information aurally that is conveyed visually during programming other than newscasts,” the FCC document said.

“Second, we seek comment … on how to ensure that television apparatus are able to make available video description, as well as to make emergency information, accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.”

The rulemaking also seeks comment on the costs of providing a secondary audio stream to convey emergency information. Should the new rules, the FCC asks, be applied differently to broadcasters or multichannel video providers that may not have a secondary audio stream and lack the technical capability to pass through video description information?

The 2011 Video Description Order, which compels large-market stations to provide aural description of regular programming, contains a technical capability exception. The rulemaking asks if there are alternatives to using secondary audio for a provision of video description. It also wants comment on how the system would affect channel sharing.

“We seek comment on whether and how the proposals contained herein should apply to EAS alerts. For example, to what extent is emergency information provided as visual-only EAS alerts?” the FCC asked.

The commission has until April 9, 2013, to complete the proceeding on access to emergency information, and until Oct. 9, 2013, to complete receiver requirements. The official Docket No. is 12-107.