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FCC: NAB CVAA Waiver Still Pending

The FCC has yet to rule on the National Association of Broadcasters request that the commission give broadcasters more time to comply with a Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) requirement to convert emergency alert text in now-news programming accessible to the sight-impaired.

An FCC spokesperson confirmed Thursday (May 21) that decision is still pending.

Broadcasters have a May 26 deadline to provide aural representations of visual emergency information—crawls, radar images—on a second audio stream. NAB, joined by broadcast engineers, told the FCC broadcasters can't meet that deadline.

NAB has asked the FCC for a temporary exemption until November, because it says the software needed to aurally transcribe crawls has not been supplied yet by vendors in some cases; also, they say, more time is needed for testing and shipping.

The NAB also wants more time to translate graphics into speech because radar maps and other moving graphic images do not contain text files that can be converted. In other words, “The ability to comply with the requirement,” the association says, “does not exist now.”

The FCC Thursday voted to start requiring MVPDs to make emergency alerts accessible on second screens in yet another step in implementing the CVAA. Following that meeting, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler reemphasized his commitment to continue making communications available to all Americans.

From text to 911 to online captioning of video clips to emergency alert accessibility, Wheeler said following the meeting at which that MVPD mandate was voted, IP technology has the ability to, "for the first time in history, address challenges that are lived with every day by a significant portion of our population. And we will seize that opportunity."

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.