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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

For immediate release:
April 13, 2000

News Media contacts:
Audrey Spivack 202-418-0512
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Michelle Russo 202-418-2358
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Requires Programmers to Make Emergency Information Accessible

Washington, DC - The FCC today adopted rules to require broadcasters, cable operators, and other multichannel video programming distributors to make local emergency information that they provide to viewers accessible to persons with hearing disabilities. The FCC concluded that critical aural information that affects the safety of viewers must be made available to persons with hearing disabilities.

This action further implements Section 713 of the Communications Act, added by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Pursuant to Section 713, the Commission previously adopted rules and implementation schedules to ensure that video programming is accessible via closed captioning to persons with hearing disabilities. Because the closed captioning requirement will be phased in over a number of years, today's action ensures that people with hearing disabilities will receive critical emergency information in an accessible format, even before the phase-in of closed captioning is complete.

In a Second Report and Order adopted today, the Commission said that emergency information not provided through closed captioning must be provided through some other method of visual presentation, such as open captioning, crawls or scrolls. These rules will apply regardless of whether the provision of information regarding an emergency occurs during a regularly scheduled newscast, an unscheduled break during regular programming, as part of continuing coverage of a situation, or in any other fashion.

The FCC defined emergency information as:

  • information about a current emergency that is intended to further the protection of life, health, safety, and property - - i.e., critical details regarding the emergency and how to respond to that emergency

    Critical details could include, among other things:

    • 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

Examples of the types of emergencies covered include:

  • immediate weather situations: tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, tidal waves, earthquakes, icing conditions, heavy snows, widespread fires, warnings and watches of impending changes in weather

  • community situations such as: discharge of toxic gases, widespread power failures, industrial explosions, civil disorders, school closings and changes in school bus schedules resulting from such conditions.
The FCC noted that the list of specific examples is intended to provide guidance as to what is covered by the rule and is not intended to be an exhaustive list.

In determining whether particular details need to be made accessible, the FCC will permit programming distributors to rely on their own good faith judgments. They are not required to provide in an accessible format all of the information about an emergency situation that they are providing to viewers aurally, only the critical aural information intended to further the protection of life, health, safety, and property. As a result of the rule, persons with hearing disabilities will have access to the same critical information to which other viewers have access.

Action by the Commission April 13, 2000, by Second Report and Order (FCC 00- 136). Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Furchtgott-Roth, Powell, and Tristani.

MM Docket 95-176

Cable Services Bureau contact: Marcia Glauberman 202-418-7046, TTY 202- 418-7172
Consumer Information Bureau, Disability Rights Office contact: Meryl S. Icove 202-418-2372, TTY 202-418-1169