TV stations have in the past few years been hit with many requirements for making their programming – especially emergency information – accessible to all people within their service areas. Two deadlines loom in the very short term that stations need to remember – the requirements for converting text based emergency information aired on their stations outside of news and EAS alerts (usually crawls dealing with issues such as severe weather alerts) into speech for airing on their SAP channels, and the requirement that any clips transmitted through IP technology (e.g. to computers or through apps) must contain captions if those clips were taken from programming that was broadcast with captions.

Some trade press reports have indicated that some TV stations are still having issues with the requirement that stations take emergency information broadcast outside of news programming and not in EAS alerts, and convert that information to speech to be broadcast on the station’s SAP channel (in some cases requiring that the station activate a SAP channel if they did not already have one).  This rule is meant to cover information like weather alerts typically carried in crawls during entertainment programs.  The rule was supposed to take effect in May, but was extended until November 30 when it appeared that most TV stations were not ready to meet the original deadline.  We wrote about the requirements and the extension here and here. The extension also put on hold obligations to include school closing alerts on the SAP channel when it became clear that the time necessary to broadcast those alert on the SAP channel (and to do it twice, as required by the rules for the audio alerts on the SAP channels) would likely overwhelm the ability to carry any other information.  The extension order also extended until November 2016 the obligation to aurally describe on the SAP channel any non-textual, graphical information conveyed by the station outside of news programs (e.g. weather radar images).  But the general obligation to convert text to speech still goes into effect at the end of next month – so stations need to be ready.

Stations also need to be ready for the captioning of video clips, a requirement that kicks in on January 1.  We wrote about that obligation here.  While the January deadline only covers situations where the online video clip is a single clip from a program that was broadcast with captions, it signals the start of a phased-in obligation to cover most clips of captioned programs that are later transmitted online.  The upcoming dates include the following:

  • January 1, 2016, for captioning “straight lift” clips, defined as a single excerpt of a captioned TV program with the same video and audio that was shown on TV on or after January 1, 2016;
  • January 1, 2017, for captioning “montages,” defined as a single online file containing multiple video clips taken from different parts of a captioned full-length TV program or from different captioned TV programs that were shown on TV with captions on or after January 1, 2017; and
  • July 1, 2017, for captioning video clips of live and near-live TV programming, such as news or sporting events shown on TV with captions on or after July 1, 2017. 

For live clips, the rules permit up to a 12-hour delay in posting a captioned clip after the programming has been shown on TV.  For near-live clips, the rules permit an 8-hour delay in posting a captioned clip after the programming has been shown on television.

Together with the captioning quality obligations that became effective back in March (about which we wrote here), TV broadcasters have had many accessibility requirements that have been imposed in a relatively short time period.  Make sure that your stations are ready to meet these upcoming deadlines to avoid FCC concerns.