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Access to Emergency Information on Television

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Released: August 28, 2012

PUBLIC NOTICE

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St., S.W.

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

Washington, D.C. 20554

Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

TTY: 1-888-835-5322

DA 12-1408

Released: August 28, 2012

REMINDER REGARDING VIDEO PROGRAMMING DISTRIBUTORS’ OBLIGATION TO

MAKE EMERGENCY INFORMATION ACCESSIBLE TO PERSONS WITH HEARING OR

VISION DISABILITIES

As the hurricane season begins, the Federal Communications Commission (“Commission”) issues
this Public Notice to remind video programming distributors – including broadcasters, cable operators,
satellite television services, and “any other distributor of video programming [for example, over fiber] for
residential reception that delivers such programming directly to the home”1 – of their obligation to make
emergency information accessible to persons with hearing and vision disabilities in accordance with
section 79.2 of the Commission’s rules.2 Under section 79.2, emergency information encompasses
critical details regarding the emergency and how to respond to the emergency.3 It also provides
information for consumers about how to contact their video programming distributor (VPD) or the
Commission regarding compliance with the rule.
We stress that the need to comply with section 79.2 and make the critical details of emergency
information accessible is not always limited to the immediate geographic areas affected by the emergency
because information about the relocation of individuals outside that immediate geographic area also falls
within the rule’s mandate.4 Accordingly, compliance with section 79.2 could include providing
information to non-impacted areas that shelter individuals displaced by a large-scale disaster, such as that
which occurred last year with the tornado devastation of Joplin, Missouri or in 2005, when Hurricane
Katrina struck the south. In these cases, the need to comply with section 79.2 has extended to areas
throughout the country where evacuees were temporarily re-located.5 In addition, we note that there are


1 47 C.F.R. § 79.1(a)(2) (defining “video programming distributor”).
2 See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2. Because of the importance of this issue, we have issued several similar Public Notices in the
past. See e.g., Public Notice, 16 FCC Rcd 15348 (2001); Public Notice, 17 FCC Rcd 14614 (2002); Public Notice,
18 FCC Rcd 14670 (2003); Public Notice, 19 FCC Rcd 9882 (2004); Public Notice, 20 FCC Rcd 5918 (2005);
Public Notice, 20 FCC Rcd 14619 (2005) (Hurricane Katrina PN); Public Notice, 21 FCC Rcd 7994 (2006); Public
Notice, 21 FCC Rcd 9066 (2006); Public Notice, 21 FCC Rcd 15084 (2006) (December 2006 PN); Public Notice,
24 FCC Rcd 11738 (2009); Public Notice, 25 FCC Rcd 7982 (2011); Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd. 8550 (2011).
3 See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(a)(2).
4 See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2 Note to paragraph (a)(2): “Critical details include, but are not limited to, specific details
regarding the areas that will be affected by the emergency, evacuation orders, detailed descriptions of areas to be
evacuated, specific evacuation routes, approved shelters or the way to take shelter in one’s home, instructions on
how to secure personal property, road closures, and how to obtain relief assistance.”
5 See Hurricane Katrina PN.

times when the airing of emergency information pertaining to a matter of national importance will also be
of local concern, and therefore should be made accessible.
All VPDs that air emergency information are required to make this information accessible. There
are no exemptions to section 79.2. In addition, each local broadcast licensee is responsible for complying
with section 79.2 regardless of the technology used to deliver its signal to consumers.
In the case of persons who are blind or visually impaired, emergency information that is provided
in the video portion of a regularly scheduled newscast or a newscast that interrupts regular programming
must be made accessible.6 The Commission expects that, in accordance with existing regulations, VPDs
will aurally describe the emergency information in the main audio as part of their ordinary operations; this
is similar to providing “open” video description.7 In addition, if the emergency information is being
provided in the video portion of programming that is not a regularly scheduled newscast (e.g., the
programmer provides the emergency information through “crawling” or “scrolling” during regular
programming) or a newscast that interrupts regular programming, the information must be accompanied
by an aural tone.8 This tone is intended to alert persons with vision disabilities that the VPD is providing
emergency information, and those persons, therefore, should tune to another source, such as a radio, for
more information.9 Repeating the aural tone at frequent intervals, or at least as often as the content of the
crawl or scroll changes, is helpful to viewers reliant on these tones.
Emergency information also must be provided in a manner that is accessible to persons who are
deaf or hard of hearing. Commission rules require that emergency information provided in the audio
portion of the programming be made accessible using closed captioning or other methods of visual
presentation, including open captioning, crawls or scrolls that appear on the screen.10 Emergency


6 See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(1)(ii).
7 See Implementation of Video Description of Video Programming, MM Docket No. 99-339, Report and Order, 15
FCC Rcd 15230 at 15250, ¶49 (2000). Video description is the insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a
television program's key visual elements into natural pauses in the program's dialogue. Twenty-First Century
Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), Pub. L. No. 111-260, § 202(a), 124 Stat. 2751 (2010),
amending § 713(h)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (Act) see also Pub. L. 111-265, 124 Stat.
2795 (2010), making technical corrections to the CVAA.
8 See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(1)(iii).
9 We note that as part of its implementation of the CVAA, the Commission must identify methods to convey
emergency information in a manner that is accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired and
promulgate regulations that require video programming providers, distributors, and owners to convey such
emergency information in an accessible manner to this population. CVAA § 202 (a), adding new Section 713(g) to
the Act. In compliance with the CVAA and to obtain guidance on these methods, the Commission established the
Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC). See Pub. L. No. 111-260 § 201(e)((2). The
VPAAC submitted its report on this matter to the Commission in April 2012. Among other things, the VPAAC
recommended that “[i]nformation about emergencies that pose imminent and serious threats to life or property . . .
be conveyed audibly as well as visually for the benefit of people with visual disabilities.” Second Report of the
Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee on the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video
Accessibility Act of 2010
, Access to Emergency Information, at 10 (Apr. 9, 2012). The CVAA directs the
Commission to complete its rulemaking on this matter not later than one year after receiving the VPAAC report.
CVAA § 202 (a).
10 See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(1)(i); December 2006 PN, 21 FCC Rcd at 15086.
2

information provided by these means may not block any closed captioning, and closed captioning may not
block any emergency information provided by crawls, scrolls, or other visual means.11 The “pass
through” obligation, generally requiring VPDs to ensure that viewers receive closed captions intact under
section 79.1, also applies to emergency information encompassed by section 79.2.12
Distributors that are not permitted by Commission rules to count captions created using the
electronic newsroom technique (ENT)13 are required to provide closed captions on all new non-exempt
programming, including breaking news and emergency alerts.14 We recognize that emergency
information is the type of information that is typically not available in advance, and that it may be
difficult for some stations to obtain closed captioning services on short notice. Nevertheless, we
emphasize that during the period in which a station may be making arrangements to obtain closed
captioning services, section 79.2 requires emergency information provided by that station to be made
accessible by some other visual presentation method, in a manner that ensures the same access to
emergency information for persons with hearing loss as for any other viewer.15
Similarly, entities that are permitted to and are using captions created with ENT for their live
programming (for determining compliance with section 79.1)16 are reminded that if the ENT method does
not automatically caption non-scripted news, the provider must either caption or make the emergency
information accessible by some other form of visual presentation as required by section 79.2.17 Lastly, a
distributor in a market that is permitted to use ENT, but chooses to use real-time captions rather than ENT
for its live programming, must provide closed captions on emergency information contained in that
programming.


11 See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(3)(i).
12 See 47 C.F.R. § 79.1(c). All video programming distributors are required to pass through any captions that they
receive from the originating source and are responsible for maintaining their equipment in working order to ensure
the accurate transmission of the closed captions. See Closed Captioning and Video Description of Video
Programming; Implementation of Section 305 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996; Accessibility of Emergency
Programming
, MM Docket No. 95-176, Second Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd 6615 at 6622, ¶13, n.48 (2000)
(2000 Order).
13 See 47 C.F.R. § 79.1(e)(3). The relevant text of that subsection reads: “Live programming or repeats of
programming originally transmitted live that are captioned using the so-called ‘electronic newsroom technique’ will
be considered captioned, except that effective January 1, 2000, and thereafter, the major national broadcast
television networks (i.e., ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC), affiliates of these networks in the top 25 television markets as
defined by Nielsen's Designated Market Areas (DMAs) and national nonbroadcast networks serving at least 50% of
all homes subscribing to multichannel video programming services shall not count electronic newsroom captioned
programming towards compliance with these rules.”
14 See December 2006 PN, 21 FCC Rcd at 15084. The Commission’s rules permit the use of “[o]pen captioning or
subtitles in the language of the target audience” in lieu of closed captioning. 47 C.F.R. § 79.1(e)(2).
15 See 47 C.F.R. § 79.2(b)(1)(i).
16 See 47 C.F.R. § 79.1(e)(3).
17 See 2000 Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 6623-24, ¶16.
3

Consumer Complaints and Enforcement

The Commission will continue to monitor closely complaints alleging violations of section 79.2,
and will review for possible enforcement action.
If you are a consumer who has a complaint regarding the lack of emergency information being
presented in an accessible format, you may contact the VPD directly for quick resolution of the problem,
or you may file a complaint with the FCC. If you do not have contact information for the VPD, you can
locate VPD contact information by searching the VPD Registry located on the FCC’s webpage at:
http://esupport.fcc.gov/vpd-search/search.action.
If you decide to complain directly to the FCC, your complaint should include:
·
The name of the VPD (e.g., broadcast station, cable company, satellite TV provider, local
telephone company) against whom the complaint is alleged;
·
The date and time of the transmission of emergency information that was in a format not
accessible to persons with disabilities; and
·
The type of emergency.
You can file your complaint with the FCC using the on-line complaint Form 2000C found at
http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/form2000c.html. You also may contact the FCC by letter, facsimile
transmission, telephone (voice/TRS/TTY), Internet e-mail, audio-cassette recording, Braille, or any other
method that would best accommodate your disability. Send your complaint to:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
Phone: 1-888-225-5322 (voice); 1-888-835-5322 (TTY)
E-mail: fccinfo@fcc.gov
Internet: www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html
Fax: 866-418-0232
Fact sheets summarizing the closed captioning and access to emergency information rules are
available at the FCC’s Web site at http://www.fcc.gov/guides/closed-captioning, and
http://www.fcc.gov/guides/emergency-video-programming-accessibility-persons-hearing-and-visual-
disabilities.
To request this Public Notice or any other materials in accessible formats for people with
disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call
the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice) or 202-418-0432 (TTY). This
Public Notice can be downloaded in Word and Portable Document Formats (PDF) at
http://transition.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/emergency_access.html.
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Contact: Traci Randolph, (202) 418-0569 (voice);
(202) 418-0537 (TTY); e-mail Traci.Randolph@fcc.gov.
-FCC-
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