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ITU: Terrestrial Digital TV Should be Accessible to Everyone, Everywhere

Even as the FCC is engaged in the twin goals of implementing video accessibility legislation and trying to free up more broadcast TV spectrum for wireless, the international Telecommunications Union is encouraging its member countries -- which includes the U.S. -- to capitalize on the transition to terrestrial digital TV to make sure TV is more accessible "to everyone, everywhere."

"For terrestrial broadcasting services, spectrum availability is sometimes an issue," the report acknowledged. "As the global manager of the radio frequency spectrum, ITU is actively encouraging its 193 Member States to ensure that sufficient spectrum is allocated to support services promoting accessibility for persons with disabilities," ITU said in releasing a new report, "Making TV Accessible."

The report focuses on digital terrestrial television.

The report identifies closed captioning as well as audio descriptions, both part of the FCC's charter as it prepares to implement the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.

It also talks about the importance of terrestrial broadcasting to immigrant populations and the elderly, and for emergency communications, all points the National Association of Broadcasters has been making in arguing that the FCC needs to leave it sufficient spectrum after reclamation to be able to serve those baseline needs as well as add services to compete in the digital age.

"In line with the goals of universal design, accessible TV can support the social inclusion of immigrant populations, address the needs of increasingly aging populations, and improve literacy," said ITU Monday, "not only for persons with disabilities, but for the non-educated and other marginalized groups. TV program are a principal source of news and information for such segments of the population, and are a key element in reinforcing social participation and community identity. Television also plays an especially crucial role in times of emergency, and can serve important educational purposes by transmitting courses and other instructional material."