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January 25, 2011

WGBH's Larry Goldberg Named Co-Chair of FCC's Video Programming and Access Advisory Committee (VPAAC)

The recently enacted "21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act" promises significant improvements to the accessibility and usability of video distributed via digital television and streamed on the Internet to computers and mobile devices. The law will also improve the accessibility of emergency communications by enabling greater access to next generation 911 systems, and will require accessible user interfaces - for users who are blind - on devices which display video programming, electronic programming guides and on-screen menus.

The law requires the FCC to establish two advisory committees, on video programming accessibility and on next generation 911 emergency communications systems.

Larry Goldberg, director of WGBH's Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) and a 25-year pioneering veteran of media access at WGBH Boston, has been appointed co-chair of the Video Programming Access Advisory Committee (VPAAC). Wayne Luplow, Vice President, HDTV Standards and Promotion, Zenith Electronics, is co-chair of the committee. Representatives from the nation's leading technology firms, television and cable networks and from national organizations representing people with disabilities comprise the committee's full, 45-person membership.

VPAAC is organized into four working groups, charged with addressing technical implementation of the law:

Working Group 1: Internet protocol based closed-captioning: Identification of protocols, technical capabilities and procedures needed to distribute and receive closed captioning of media using Internet protocol (user-generated media is exempted from this law);

Working Group 2: Pass-through of closed captioning and video description: Recommendations to ensure proper delivery and reception of closed captioning and video description to devices capable of receiving and displaying video programming;

Working Group 3: Emergency Information: Identification of methods to generate and deliver emergency information provided on video programming in a manner that is accessible; and

Working Group 4: Accessibility of user interfaces, on-screen text menus, video programming guides and menus on navigational devices and identification and recommendation of standards and protocols to enable access to these features and functions.

The VPAAC is required to submit two reports to the Commission with their recommendations, identification of remaining technical challenges and recommended deadlines for compliance.

For more information on the 21st Century Video and Communications Accessibility Act, please visit the website of the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology.

For more information on the Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee, including a full list of members, visit the FCC's VPAAC Page.

About NCAM and WGBH

The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH is a research and development organization that works to make existing and emerging technologies accessible to all audiences. NCAM ( is part of the Media Access Group at WGBH, which also includes The Caption Center (est. 1972), and Descriptive Video Service® (est. 1990). For more information, visit The Media Access Group at WGBH,

WGBH Boston is America’s public broadcasting powerhouse—PBS’s single largest producer of TV and Web content, including such award-winning favorites as Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, Masterpiece, American Experience, Arthur, Curious George, and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle, and children’s series and websites. WGBH is a pioneer in developing educational multimedia and new technologies that make media accessible to people with disabilities. Podcasts, vodcasts, iPhone apps, and more...WGBH creates content audiences enjoy on the air, online, and on the go. Find more information at