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FCC issues 18 month reprieve on requirement to convert visual emergency information to SAP audio

The FCC has given the nation’s TV stations an additional year and a half to comply with its requirement to convert any emergency information presented on-air visually during non-news programming to be presented in audio form on a station’s SAP audio channel.

The delay was jointly requested by the American Council of the Blind (ACB), the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

The FCC adopted the original rule in 2013 to aid individuals who are blind or visually impaired, but an order issued Nov. 16 granted a temporary waiver extending the deadline 18 months.

The rule was adopted primarily to impart visual emergency information presented in “crawls” such as extreme weather, governmental or school closures, etc.

Why the delay?

“Broadcast groups and those representing the visually impaired agreed that there was no available technology to make this conversion of graphics to speech,” said David Oxenford, an attorney with TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer.

The NAB, ACB and AFB told the FCC that “vendors remain stymied by the challenge of automatically creating descriptions for radar maps and other moving graphics that are generated by software that does not contain text files that can be converted into speech.”

The FCC said the NAB contacted “potential developers” of a technical solution, who “confirmed that no such technology currently exists or is expected to be produced in the foreseeable future.”

The NAB also surveyed a number of its televisions station members who also confirmed that “no such technology or solution is available, despite industry outreach and requests.” 

The NAB, ACB and AFB expressed their “intent in the near term is to engage with leaders in the tech industry to identify projected pathways toward incorporating artificially intelligent application program interfaces (API), and determine if such software solutions exist and could then be incorporated into the downstream broadcast of infographics that could then describe the content in real time.”

The three petitioners must provide a technical solution status report to the FCC by Nov. 22, 2017.

Stations seeking background information about the FCC original requirement can read Oxenford’s previous blog articles on the topic here and here.

Questions? Email TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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