FCC wants text crawls to include sound by 2015

Chairman Genachowski wants to give broadcasters and cable operators two years to convert emergency messages for the blind and sight-impaired.
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FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is circulating a proposed order among commissioners that would give broadcasters and cable operators two years to convert emergency text crawls into audio for the blind and sight-impaired.

The order would not initially apply to Internet video delivery, which is being treated as a separate issue. Along with the order comes a Notice of Proposed Further Rulemaking that focuses on how the audio requirement should apply to IP-delivered services or to the migration of programming to mobile-oriented TV Everywhere platforms.

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Broadcasters will be required to air a tone along with on-screen crawls or graphics signaling to the blind or sight-impaired to switch to a second audio channel (SAP) for emergency information. That channel will also include an audio version of the emergency text message. Cable and other program providers will also be required to carry the audio.

The NAB petitioned the FCC earlier to require audio of only text messages that affect life, health, safety or property—and not non-life-threatening messages such as lists of school closings and the like. Apparently, the order being floated among FCC commissioners offers some flexibility in dealing with those types of non-emergency situations.

The order is in response to an April deadline to implement parts of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.