TV Station Fined for Emergency Captioning Violation
By Cheryl Heppner
Editor: Here’s a story about another TV station being fined for failing to make emergency information available to people with hearing loss. This one is in the Washington DC area, and failed to provide visual information during a thunderstorm/tornado watch.
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Today the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau announced that WTTG-TV (FOX Channel 5) was found in violation of its rules for making emergency information accessible to people with hearing disabilities. A Consent Decree calls for WTTG to pay a $12,000 fine within 30 days to the US Treasury.
The action is the result of a complaint for not providing visual information during a thunderstorm/tornado watch in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area on May 25, 2004. I was the person who filed the complaint after I experienced confusion and fear in trying to get information from WTTG’s broadcast, and then talked to several other individuals who also reported the same experience during the storm. What information was provided visually did not tell how severe the storm was, the locations affected, and what should be done to remain safe.
In the Consent Decree, WTTG also agreed to these policies and practices:
– To close caption all emergency information broadcast outside a regularly scheduled newscast if the information is conveyed via the Station’s audio.
– To make the critical details of the emergency information accessible by other visual means, such as crawls, scrolls, or handwriting on a blackboard, whiteboard, or other display and will continue to do so until captioning begins If captioning services are not immediately available or if caption services cannot be immediately secured. Emergency information will include any information relating to an imminent or ongoing emergency, intended to protect life, health, or property.
– To distribute, at least every six months, the Station’s Emergency Visual Presentation Policy to all employees.
– To incorporate the Station’s Emergency Visual Presentation Policy into the Station’s regular news employee training session.
– To promptly begin captioning, or contact its captioning service, before or contemporaneously with any broadcast coverage of a pending or imminent emergency that endangers viewers and make its best reasonable efforts to ensure that coverage of the emergency is captioned as soon as possible.
– To caption the newscast or breaking news report, make the critical details of the emergency information accessible by other visual means, such as crawls, scrolls, or handwriting on a blackboard, whiteboard or other display during any time that captioning is not immediately available.
– To maintain a dedicated captioning computer that is remotely accessible by the News Desk that has direct internet access to all of its captioning service’s captioners nationwide so that Master Control Operators and personnel at any News Desk computer can: (1) initiate emergency captioning by pressing one key, (2) order future captioning by accessing and clicking on an icon on the computer, (3) verify that captioning has come on line and (4) converse with captioners via internet.
– To maintain visible postings on television monitors in the Station’s newsroom that remind employees to promptly contact the Station’s captioning service during emergency events, and giving the phone number for that service.
– To provide special weather text graphics, as circumstances warrant, in addition to captioning, for hearing disabled viewers to receive shelter-at-home tips during coverage of tornado, severe thunderstorm, flash flooding or other weather emergencies. This is in addition to providing emergency information in an accessible format while waiting for captioning to commence.
(c)2006 by Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC), 3951 Pender Drive, Suite 130, Fairfax, VA 22030; www.nvrc.org Items in this newsletter are provided for information purposes only; NVRC does not endorse products or services. You do not need permission to share this information, but please be sure to credit NVRC.