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March 1, 2005

TV stations fined for failing deaf people in time of crisis

From: The NewStandard, NY - Mar 1, 2005

by NewStandard Staff

The FCC plans to level $65k in fines against three California TV outlets for allegedly shirking their duty under a 2000 ruling to convey emergency messages in visual format.

Mar 1 - After three local television stations in San Diego seemingly failed to provide emergency information about October 2003 wildfires in a visual format accessible to hearing-impaired viewers, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed fines totaling $65,000. The Commission says this is the first time it has leveled sanctions under a 2000 rule requiring TV stations to provide emergency information using closed captioning or other visual formats.

The agency said it initiated an investigation after a community member complained that KUSI, KFMB and KGTV were each broadcasting information about closures and evacuations due to wildfires without providing the crucial messages to the hearing-impaired. After reviewing tapes of the stations' broadcasts, the agency concluded that each station had on several occasions neglected to provide the same emergency information to its hearing-impaired viewers as it broadcast to its hearing audience.

In a written statement announcing the proposed fines, FCC Chairman Michael Powell said, "People with hearing disabilities have a right to the same timely emergency information as stations provide to their hearing audiences."

For their part, KUSI and KFMB -- which are to be fined $25,000 and $20,000 respectively -- have denied that they failed to provide the required information and format in a timely manner. KGTV's Vice President Dereck Dalton told the San Diego Union Tribune, "We regret that we did not fully meet the FCC standard for informing hearing-impaired viewers during our multiple-day expanded coverage of this unprecedented local disaster." He also said the station, in addition to paying a fine of $20,000, is making improvements and meeting with representatives of the deaf and hearing-impaired communities.

The stations have 30 days to pay the fines or contest them.

© 2005 The NewStandard.