FCC Issues Reminders to TV Stations, Cable Operators

Nonexempt Spanish-language video has to be closed captioned and emergency information has to be accessible to vision- and hearing-impaired

Under its new mantra of communications, communications and more communications, the FCC issued two public reminders Thursday to TV stations and cable operators, one of an upcoming deadline and the other of an ongoing obligation.

The FCC reminded them in one public notice that all nonexempt Spanish-language video has to be closed captioned as of Jan. 1, 2010.

In another, it cited the Southern California fires and the current hurricane season as reason to remind program distributors, again including cable and broadcast, of their obligation to make emergency information accessible to the vision- and hearing-impaired.

Under previous FCC administrations, some broadcasters got hit with fines for failing to do so, including ones who were otherwise covering fires and storms sometimes round the clock and at the risk of their own lives and property.

The emergency alert notice took some effort to detail just what the FCC meant by complying with the requirement.

That also included the warning that there are no exemptions and that the requirement is not limited to information targeted to the immediate geographic areas -- for example information about how displaced refugees in other parts of the country can receive assistance.

The FCC said it would continue to monitor complaints closely and told consumers they could complain to the video distributor first, though that is not required, and provided a link to an online complaint form.