Fox Settles FCC Tornado Complaint

Fox has agreed to pay $12,000 and adopt various new newsroom policies to settle a proposed FCC fine against it over conveying emergency warnings to the hearing-impaired. The move mirrors a similar settlement by WRC-TV Washington.

The FCC had proposed fining WTTG $16,000, but said it was in the public interest to take the $12,000, combined with a number of steps Fox pledged to take.

The proposed fine stemmed from a viewer complaint that Fox's WTTG (TV) Washington had "failed to make accessible to persons with hearing disabilities emergency information that it provided aurally in its programming for WTTG-TV during a thunderstorm/tornado watch in Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area on May 25, 2004."

The FCC concluded that Fox had committed two apparent violations, but the consent decree is not an admission of guilt by Fox.

In addition to the money, Fox promised that WTTG would "close caption all emergency information broadcast outside a regularly scheduled newscast if such information is conveyed via the Station’s audio" and that if it was not immediately practicable to close caption, it would convent that information via a scroll, graphic, chalk board or white board if necessary.

It also promised to keep employees apprised of the policy, train those not familiar with it, and maintain a dedicated captioning computer hooked up and ready to roll.

It will also make Shelter-At-Home tips available to the hearing impaired during tornados.

The move mirrors a settlement struck last February with WRC over the same thunderstorm and with terms that were essentially identical.

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.