FCC: MVPDs Must Comply With Second-Screen Accessibility by June 10

Multichannel video programming distributors have a July 10 deadline for making their TV Everywhere programming more accessible to the blind and visually impaired everywhere.

The FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau has been reminding those MVPDs this week that as of that date they are required to pass through a secondary audio stream of emergency information if their service allows subscribers to access linear (prescheduled) programming services via second-screen devices such as laptops and smartphones.

The agency had given MVPDs two years to bring all their applications and plug-ins into compliance.

Related: FCC Proposes Extending Emergency Alerts to Second Screens

It's yet another step in the FCC's ongoing implementation of the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) of 2010 requirement that emergency information appearing in breaking news crawls and graphics are accessible.

The definition of linear programming subject to the requirement is network programming that "can only be received via a connection provided by the MVPD using an MVPD-provided application or plug-in." So, it does not apply to programming that is only distributed via the Internet (Netflix, Hulu) that is accessible by subs using either an MVPD-provided broadband connection or a third-party ISP connection.

The FCC also reminded manufacturers that they are required to provide a way, comparable to a button or icon, to easily activate that secondary stream. They have been required since last December to do so.

Back in May 2015, the FCC voted unanimously (with some partial dissents from the Republicans) to require cable operators and other MPVDS to make emergency alert information accessible to the sight-impaired when their traditional programming lineups are accessed on second screens.

Cable ops had been lobbying to confine the second-screen requirement to second screens in the home, but the FCC chose not to limit it.

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.