The FCC has proposed, at least for now, not to apply its
emergency information and video description rules to Internet-delivered video,
although it will apply to MVPDs using IP technology to deliver their
traditional video services.
Broadcasters and cable operators are required by the
Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 to make
emergency information accessible to the blind and visually impaired, including
having the requisite equipment.
On Monday, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on
making that information more accessible by requiring the use of a secondary
audio stream to provide information aurally that is being provided visually
during programming other than newscasts, which already have accessibility
requirements for emergency info dating back to 2000. Currently, broadcasters
and cable operators are only required to broadcast a tone -- which is usually
then followed by a silent crawl of the information. Those who are blind and
visually impaired may then have to tune to the radio to get the actual
emergency info. The FCC is proposing requiring that the emergency crawl info be
available aurally via a secondary TV channel to eliminate that extra step.
The FCC also asks whether, as an alternative, it should
require or allow alternatives to that approach, including requiring broadcasters
to follow the tone with a short message telling the visually-impaired audience
where they can get the information -- radio station or phone number, or
requiring a shortened version of the textual information on the primary
And while the FCC clearly sees over-the-top video as a
potential competitor to traditional video, it is not yet ready to migrate those
broadcaster and traditional MVPD obligations onto Internet delivery, suggesting
it is bound by statutory language.
"Congress did not explicitly extend the scope of the
emergency information rules to IP-delivered video programming, as it did in
requiring closed captioning of IP-delivered video programming," the
commission pointed out. But it did suggest that could change. "At the outset,
we do not, at this time, extend the scope of the emergency information and
video description rules in this proceeding beyond the category of programming
already covered by our existing emergency information and video description
Commenters will have 20 days to weigh in after the notice's
publication in the Federal Register, and reply comments are due 30 days after
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