Accessible Televised Emergency Information. On April 8, 2013, the FCC adopted rules to make televised emergency information more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The new rules require emergency information that appears visually during a non-news program (such as when information about the emergency appears visually on the bottom of the screen during a regularly scheduled program) to be provided audibly on a secondary audio stream. The rules will take effect two years after publication in the Federal Register. However, The Weather Channel has an additional 6 months to comply, and The Weather Channel on DIRECTV has an additional 1 year to comply.
New Requirements for Equipment. The FCC also adopted rules to ensure that certain equipment used to receive, play back, or record television programs is able to make secondary audio streams available. Secondary audio streams will convey emergency information, as well as the video description that makes programs accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. These rules also go into effect two years after they are published in the Federal Register.
Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM). In addition to adopting the new rules, the FCC is asking the public to comment on three issues:
(1) whether the FCC should require companies covered by the new rules to provide contact information and customer support services to help consumers who are blind or visually impaired navigate between the main and secondary audio streams;
(2) whether new services that deliver certain types of television programming over tablets, laptops, personal computers, smartphones, or similar devices should be covered by the FCC’s requirements for video description and accessible emergency information; and
(3) whether the FCC should require accessibility content on the secondary audio stream to be tagged in a manner that enables equipment to detect this content when it is present – this will make it easier for consumers who are blind or visually impaired to find the secondary audio stream.
FNPRM Comment Date: (60 days after date of publication in the Federal Register)
FNPRM Reply Comment Date: (90 days after date of publication in the Federal Register)
Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:
Statement issued by Commissioner Clyburn:
Statement issued by Commissioner Rosenworcel:
Statement issued by Commissioner Pai:
For more information, contact Diana Sokolow, Diana.Sokolow@fcc.gov, or Maria Mullarkey, Maria.Mullarkey@fcc.gov, of the Media Bureau, Policy Division, (202) 418-2120.