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Your Tax Dollars, Hard At Work!

As a general rule, I avoid the tech regulatory scene, because it gets so bogged down with gibberish that typically boils down to the words, “No, you cannot.” Yet a passel of deadlines are looming, and that seemed a good time for a summer regulatory roundup. In deadline order:

Emergency Alert System and “CAP.” Regulators: FEMA, FCC, National Weather Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Deadline: June 30. What It Is: Here in Colorado, we’re already getting the afternoon tornado warnings, which turn the TV into a bleeping black screen, with white text advising us to take immediate shelter and accompanying audio saying the same thing. EAS and the common alerting protocol (CAP) extends that type of work nationally, so that the President could theoretically interrupt TV programming to tell us something really important. At an MSO level, the work of it is software changes to the gear that currently handles local EAS.

Video Descriptive Services. Regulator: FCC. Deadline: July 1. What It Is: This has lots to do with a little button on your TV remote labeled “SAP,” for “Secondary Audio Program.” Right now, pushing that button invokes a monaural mix-down of the soundtrack, with Spanish-language audio.

With VDS, however, pressing SAP would also mix the audio channel down to monaural, but instead of Spanish, you’d hear the original feed, plus a verbal description of what’s going on visually. Not so much, “Suddenly, the phone rang,” because the viewer could hear it ringing. More like, “She put the phone to her ear anxiously.” The onus of this effort is more on program networks than MSOs.

Closed Captioning for IP Video. Regulator: FCC. Deadline: Sept. 30. for program networks; Jan. 14, 2013 for device manufacturers (which, in and of itself, is an inscrutable bifurcation). What It Is: Rules that require program networks to put closed captions on full-length video content that’s made available via Internet protocol (think HBO Go, Xfinity, etc.)

This one is riddled with complexities that will make you want to poke your own eyes out. The Report and Order details “VPOs” (video-programming owners); “VPPs” (videoprogramming providers); and 112 deliriously entertaining (not!) pages of accompanying regulatory-speak. Stretch and hydrate before you dive in.

Commercial Audio Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM). Regulator: FCC. Deadline: Dec. 13. What It Is: A way to not get blasted out of your chair when commercials play at way higher volumes than programs. By year-end, MSOs need to begin periodic testing of networks that don’t “self-certify” that they’re CALM-compliant. Big hallelujah on this one.

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