FCC Seeks Comment on Proposed Rules for Accessibility of Emergency Information and Apparatus Requirements for Emergency Information and Video Description

by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

[authors: Maria T. Browne, Bradley W. Guyton]

On Nov. 19, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to implement portions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) requiring: 1) emergency information to be made accessible to blind or visually impaired individuals, and 2) certain video programming equipment to be capable of decoding and making available video description services and emergency information to such individuals. The FCC proposed to extend the requirements to television broadcast and multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) services, and apparatuses designed to receive, play back or record broadcast or MVPD services, but not to IP-delivered video programming that is not otherwise an MVPD service or to apparatus display of IP-delivered video programming. The NPRM seeks comment on these and other proposals.

First, the FCC proposed to modify Section 79.2 of its rules to require broadcast television and MVPD services to make emergency information that is provided to viewers visually during non-newscast programming (e.g., via a text crawl) accessible to blind or visually impaired individuals via a secondary audio stream, which would provide that information aurally and concurrently with the visual emergency information. (The FCC’s existing rules require emergency information provided visually during a newscast to be provided aurally in the primary audio stream and also require that information provided visually during non-newscasts be accompanied by an aural tone. This NPRM does not propose to modify the requirements applicable to information presented during newscasts.) The NPRM seeks comment on the proposed requirement to use a secondary audio stream, as well as related issues, including:

  • The benefits and/or incremental costs of providing a secondary audio stream for emergency information provided during non-newscasts;
  • The implementation of the proposed requirement to provide a secondary audio stream for such purposes, including the appropriate time frame for meeting the requirements, the steps covered entities must take to meet the requirements, and whether covered entities must provide customer support related to the secondary audio stream;
  • Whether the definition of emergency in Section 79.2(a)(2) should be updated to include, for example, severe thunderstorms;
  • The extent to which text-to-speech (TTS) technologies are sufficiently accurate and reliable for use in generating the secondary audio stream;
  • Whether the aurally-presented emergency information must be identical to the information presented visually;
  • Whether emergency information on a secondary stream may block video description on the same stream;
  • The roles of video programming distributors, video programming providers, and program owners in meeting this requirement;
  • Whether changes are required to the existing complaint procedures; and
  • Additional or alternative methods, beyond the secondary audio stream, by which emergency information might be made accessible to blind or visually impaired persons.

Second, the FCC solicited comments regarding requirements that any apparatus designed to receive, play back, or record television broadcast or MVPD services have the capability to decode and make available required video description services and emergency information accessible to blind or visually impaired individuals. The NPRM seeks comment on the meaning of these requirements and several related issues, including the following:

  • The specific capabilities that should be mandated by the FCC such as the use of TTS and the steps manufacturers, broadcasters and MVPDs must take to ensure that video description services and emergency information provided via a secondary audio stream are available and accessible;
  • Whether DBS providers face unique technical challenges in providing compliant equipment;
  • The requirements for recording devices, especially since emergency information is time sensitive;
  • What performance and display standards should be imposed, including whether the secondary audio channel should default to the primary audio when not in use to enable consumers to tune to this stream all of the time;
  • How certain equipment features that present challenges raised in the 2011 video description proceeding (e.g., labeling of video streams, use of “receiver-mix” technology, delivery of multiple simultaneous ancillary audio services) should be handled;
  • The appropriate deadline for apparatus to meet the new requirements;
  • Complaint filing procedures, including a proposal that Commission staff be permitted to request information from any party in order to investigate or adjudicate the complaint;
  • Whether the types of apparatus to which the rules will apply should be limited to those that make available the type of programming that is subject to current FCC emergency information rules (and thus excluding the display of IP-delivered video programming that is not part of television broadcast or MVPD service);
  • Whether certain definitions from the FCC’s previous IP Closed Captioning Order should be applied to this context, albeit without references to IP programming;
  • The potential inclusion of removable media play back apparatus, such as DVD and Blu-ray players, in the scope of the requirements;
  • An “achievability” exception that would apply to certain types of apparatus, including those using a picture screen of less than 13 inches, exemptions for display-only video monitors, and purpose-based waivers; and
  • Alternate means of compliance and the procedures by which such means might be evaluated.

Comments in response to the NPRM are due 20 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register. Reply comments are due 10 days thereafter. Please let us know if you have any questions concerning the NPRM or would like our assistance in preparing responsive comments.


Written by:

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.