WINK TV to Pay $16,000 for Failure to Provide Hurricane Info to the Hearing Impaired

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Add $16,000 to the costs of going commercial-free for almost 24 hours to cover Hurricane Charlie.
That is how much WINK TV Fort Myers, Fla., has agreed to pay the FCC to settle a complaint that it failed to provide life-saving information to the hearing impaired after the station--and the National Hurricane Center--were caught off guard. It will also take a host of remedial actions prescribed by the FCC per similar consent decrees with other broadcasters.

Broadcasters must either caption or otherwise make information like evacuation orders and other warnings available to hearing-impaired viewers.

In settling with the FCC, the station admitted no fault. They agreed to caption in real time all its local newscasts, as well as any extended news coverage of an "emergency conditions affecting the Fort-Myers-Naples Designated Market Areas."

And if there is not enough time to close caption in an emergency, it must use "crawls, scrolls, handwriting on a blackboard," or some other way to visually present the information.

Some broadcasters have complained that the penalties for occasional slips in extended coverage in emergency situations where station staffers are also affected by the disaster is overly punitive and could even discourage wall-to-wall coverage

The settlement was similar to ones with Fox's WTTG last November and NBC's WRC TV Washington earlier in the year over their coverage of tornadoes there, though WTTG's settlement was only $12,000.