Online video exempt--for now--from FCC emergency broadcast rules

The FCC said Internet-delivered video--unless it's provided by a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD)--need not comply with changes to its emergency information and video description rules in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued Nov. 19.

The Commission is seeking to bulk up the requirements it last visited in 2000 for emergency alerts to better serve the visually impaired. Where previously MVPDs and broadcasters used a tone and then a video scroll, now there must be a secondary audio stream "to enable individuals who are blind or visually impaired to access emergency information and video description services more easily," the FCC said.

While the Commission primarily seeks to add the aural emergency information to the primary video stream, it did open the possibility that the initial alert could aurally direct the visually impaired to a secondary source of information--such as a radio station--and then proceed to the video scroll.

"Emergency information might pertain to emergencies such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, tidal waves, earthquakes, icing conditions and warnings and watches of impending changes in weather," according to the rulemaking.

While MVPDs, even those delivering video and other content via the Internet, must comply with the new rules, online video sources are exempt because "Congress did not explicitly extend the scope of the emergency information rules to IP-delivered video programming, as it did in requiring closed captioning of IP-delivered video programming. Instead, Congress referenced television-based definitions of video programming distributors and providers," the Commission said.

The FCC did propose to include "removable media playback apparatus such as DVDs and Blu-ray players within the scope of the new requirements," but only if "they receive, play back or record television broadcast services of MVPD services."

The rules are not set in stone yet. Comments will be accepted for 20 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register. Reply comments are due 30 days after that.

For more:
- the FCC issued this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Related articles:
National Weather Service starts sending alerts to handsets
FCC: Cable operators have until June 30 to comply with Emergency Alert System protocol