The Year’s Hot Topics for ALDAns – Part 1
Presented by Cheryl Heppner
Cheryl is one of the leading national advocates for people with hearing loss, and is involved in just about every hearing loss advocacy organization on the planet. Here she is with her take on the current hot issues.
This is part one of three parts.
For more coverage of this great convention, please point your browser to http://www.hearinglossweb.com/res/hlorg/alda/cn/2006/2006.htm
My plan for today is to walk you through some of the hot topics that are happening today in advocacy. I’m hoping to do this quickly, so we have time for questions and discussion.
Television Captioning Exemptions
I’m going to start with television captioning. There are two hot topics. One is that starting in 1999, through 2005, we had very few petitions from different groups wanting to have exemptions from captioning. Starting in 2006, 100% of new programming is required to be captioned. As we got closer to that deadline, we saw a huge increase in the requests for exemptions.
Before September we had 166 requests for exemptions. Nine of those were eventually withdrawn, and three of the exemptions were granted. Since September 1, 238 requests were granted, and 539 petitions have not been posted for public notice.
When the first two petitions were granted we were shocked, because it looked like the FCC was granting exemptions for reasons that had never been used before. So we joined with other organizations on October 12 and filed a petition for review. We’re trying to get the exemptions withdrawn and would also like the FCC to discontinue the granting of these exemptions.
When we filed the petition for review, we discussed some of the things that were wrong with the process, including the fact that the FCC didn’t follow their own regulations. I spent many hours going through the petitions for exemption, and I often found very limited documentation supporting the request.
The majority of the petitions were from faith-based organizations. I found that some of them showed assets in the millions of dollars.
Another thing that we noticed was that exemption requests used to be reviewed by the FCC’s Media Bureau. But many of these exemptions were done by the Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau. We believe this procedure is not appropriate.
A company called Aberdeen Captioning says it provides captioning for both large and small ministries, and it charges $60 to $150 for a half-hour show.
A second captioning issue that also came up very recently is also of great concern. In August 2006, the FCC released a clarification for providing visual information during emergencies in the top 25 markets in the US. Just two weeks prior, the FCC reminded broadcasters that they had to provide 100% captioning of all new programming. Now this clarification backs off from that. This clarification allows the broadcasters to use their good judgment to decide if they have to provide captioning. Of course we’re very concerned about this, because there was no public discussion of this action.
We’ve combined with other organizations and filed an application for review based on the fact that the FCC is not following its own rules. It is in effect making new rulings rather than enforcing existing ones.
We also requested that they withdraw the clarification.
I was asked to speak to a conference this spring about the topic of captioned radio. I agreed, and flew out there to address this conference. I’m not used to talking to a bunch of engineers, and I was trying to figure out how to impress them with the seriousness of the situation. I gave them a bunch of statistics about how many people with hearing loss there are. Then I said, “I need captioned radio, because my husband is always listening to the radio when we’re driving, and I need to know if he’s listening to Howard Stern. I need to know. How can I control him if I don’t know what he’s listening to?”
Within the last week of so the Department of Educations has awarded a grant to NPR and WGBH, and they will be using part of this to look at captioned radio. They have funding for three years, and they are planning to build a prototype to field test.
When I first mentioned captioned radio to people I got some odd reactions. They said that a person can’t look at captioned radio when she’s driving. I said I agreed, but the passengers can.