Democracy Now Spotlights PEG Accessibility

Independent nonprofit Democracy Now, which airs a daily news program on cable access, radio and the Internet, is putting a spotlight on the FCC's implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) in hopes of getting the FCC, through rules implementing that Act, to require multichannel video providers to provide descriptions of PEG TV channel shows in their program guides.

Aug. 7 was the deadline for reply comments in the FCC's implementation of the CVAA rules having to do with Sections 204 and 205 of the CVAA, which require that digital navigation devices and interfaces for onscreen video be accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

According to the online docket, the FCC heard from numerous public access programmers complaining about their MVPD not making channels easily accessible, for both impaired and unimpaired viewers.

One long-standing complaint is over multiple channels collected under a single channel labeled "local programing" or "local origination" and only accessible via a sub-menu that may not identify individual programs and thus make it hard to find or record them. Some have also complained that cable ops are dragging their feet on requests to make more programming accessibility information available.

On its Wednesday, Aug. 7, broadcast, Democracy Now cited the filings by community media took aim at the FCC as well as MVPDs, labeling the agency as one "widely criticized as being too close to the industries."

On the program, Montgomery County, Md., cable administrator Mitsuko Herrera, a member of the FCC's Consumer Advisory Committee, says that on some systems that carry Democracy Now with closed captions, that information is not readily available on the guide.

Herrera conceded that in her own county, Comcast carries PEG programming information, but says that might not be the case in another county. "Some people are doing it, and others aren't," she said.

Herrera also opined that it was hard to find and record PEG programs. "Independent media get blocked out from being accessible in the way most people watch television," she said.

The FCC has an October deadline for finalizing CVAA rules.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.