The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently proposed requiring that when broadcast television stations or cable/satellite companies display emergency information visually during non-news programming, they must provide the same information aurally on a “secondary” audio stream.  When viewers tune to a channel, they ordinarily hear the primary audio stream; the secondary audio stream can be used to provide alternative audio, such as emergency information, translations of the programming into Spanish or other languages, or video description (meaning audio description of the actions taking place on screen).


The FCC’s rules already require broadcasters and cable/satellite companies to make emergency information that is provided visually during newscasts accessible to persons with visual disabilities through audio in the primary audio stream.    The new proposed rule would supplement the existing requirements so that emergency information will be accessible to indivdiuals who are blind or visually impaired even when it is provided in crawls during non-news programming. The FCC’s proposal arises out of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), which directs the FCC to issue rules making emergency information accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.  


Comments are due December 18, 2012, and reply comments are due January 7, 2013.