CommLawCenter readers may recall that the FCC adopted a rule in 2013 requiring broadcasters to present aurally on a secondary audio stream (“SAS”) all emergency information provided visually during programming other than during regularly-scheduled newscasts and newscasts that interrupt regular programming.
This “Audible Crawl Rule” went into effect on May 26, 2015, with a few exceptions. Following a request from the National Association of Broadcasters, the FCC (1) temporarily waived the requirement to aurally convey information regarding school closings via the SAS pending further consideration in a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and (2) extended the deadline to begin aurally describing inherently visual graphics, like Doppler Radar maps. Consideration of the school closings requirement continues, and the FCC has twice extended the compliance deadline for inherently visual graphics.
In today’s Order, the FCC acknowledged that its aspirational reach continues to exceed the grasp of current technology, granting a joint petition from the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the NAB for a five-year extension of the current waiver until May 26, 2023. To monitor progress on achieving the desired visual-to-aural capabilities, the FCC also required that the NAB file a report with the Commission by November 25, 2020, the midpoint of the five-year extension period. The report must “detail the extent to which broadcasters have made progress in finding accessible solutions or alternatives to providing critical emergency details generally delivered in a graphic format, as well as the extent to which this waiver continues to be necessary.”
The Media Bureau first granted an 18-month waiver of this requirement in May 2015, in response to an NAB request for a six-month waiver of the compliance deadline. In 2016, the same coalition of organizations seeking this latest extension requested an additional 18 months to implement an automated approach for compliance with this part of the rule. That extension would have expired tomorrow, May 26, 2018.
The FCC enacted the Audible Crawl Rule pursuant to the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which requires broadcasters to make emergency information available to blind or visually impaired individuals. Originally adopted in April 2013, Section 79.2(b)(2)(ii) of the FCC’s Rules requires all visual emergency information presented outside of newscasts to be made available via SAS. The rule applies to visual content that is textual (such as on-screen crawls) and non-textual (graphic displays). According to the FCC, the aural description of visual but non-textual information must be intelligible and must “accurately and effectively convey the critical details regarding the emergency and how to respond to the emergency.” Continue reading →