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Access to Emergency Alerts for People with Disabilities
Federal Communications Commission Rules and Activities

FCC Rules and Activities

FCC Closed Captioning Requirements for Television Programming
In 1996, Congress required video programming distributors (cable operators, broadcasters, satellite distributors, and other multi-channel video programming distributors) to close caption their television programs. In 1997, the FCC set a transition schedule requiring distributors to provide an increasing amount of captioned programming.

FCC Rules on the Accessibility of Emergency Programming to Persons with Hearing and Visual Disabilities
FCC rules require broadcasters and cable operators to make local emergency information accessible to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, and to persons who are blind or have visual disabilities. This rule means that emergency information must be provided both aurally and in a visual format.

FCC Fines for Violation of the Accessibility of Emergency Programming Rules

In February of 2005, the FCC proposed fines for three San Diego, CA television stations for failing to provide closed closed captioning or other visual information in a timely manner during the wildfires there in October 2003. Read about those fines here.

Also in 2005, three local television stations in Washington, D.C. were found to have violated the FCC's rules for accessibility of emergency programming by not broadcasing captioning during news coverage of a storm that occurred on May 25, 2004. More information about these FCC rulings can be found through the links below.

FCC Ruling - WJLA-TV, ACC Licensee, Inc.
FCC Ruling - WRC-TV, NBC Telemundo
FCC Ruling - WTTG, Fox Broadcasting

FCC Seeks Comment on the Emergency Alert System

Late in 2005, the FCC issued a Report & Order and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning the Emergency Alert System. The FCC asked for comments on the effectiveness of the current EAS system in reaching people with disabilities. WGBH/NCAM and the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Telecom Access collaborated to submit comments to this NPRM in January, 2006. Link to those comments here.

FCC Commercial Mobile Alert Advisory Committee (CMSAAC)
NCAM's work on accessible emergency alerts for people with disabilities led to appointment to serve on the federally mandated FCC Commercial Mobile Service Alerts Advisory Committee (CMSAAC). CMSAAC addressed issues surrounding the dissemination of emergency warnings and alerts via mobile devices, with specific recommendations to address user needs, network structure, technical standards and protocols to facilitate the ability of commercial mobile service providers to transmit emergency alerts to their subscribers.

FCC Consumer Facts - Commercial Mobile Alert System

FCC Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC)
The Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council's (CSRIC) mission is to provide recommendations to the FCC to ensure, among other things, optimal security and reliability of communications systems, including telecommunications, media, and public safety. NCAM is a Council member.