The Basics of Title 2 of the CVAA: Video Programming
This post is part 3 of a series titled Everything You Need to Know about the FCC Accessibility Regulations. To see any of the blog posts in this series, please follow the navigation at the bottom of the page.
Last time, we took a look at Title 1 of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), which states that advanced communication services and products must be able to be used by people with disabilities. In this blog post, we’re exploring Title 2, which determines how video programming must be easily accessed and consumed by people with disabilities.
Introduction to Title 2 – Video Programming
Title 2 of the CVAA requires that “information provided in video programming be made accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired and that certain apparatus be capable of delivering video description and emergency information to those individuals.” In layman’s terms, Title 2 of the CVAA requires that manufacturers of video programming make their products and services easier to access for people with disabilities.
The responsibility of updating to these regulations is on the manufacturer/provider of the product or service. This means that if you’re a business who is involved in video programming, it is your responsibility to get up to date and adhere to the regulations of the CVAA.
What Are the Regulations of Title 2?
Title 2 is primarily concerned with adding closed captioning to video programming, enabling disabled users to have access to those captions, and allowing users with disabilities to get emergency information that is presented during video programming on a range of devices.
In the words of the FCC, Title 2 of the CVAA:
- “Requires video programming that is closed captioned on TV to be closed captioned when distributed on the Internet (does not cover programs shown only on the Internet).
- Establishes deadlines for the FCC to respond to requests for exemption from the closed captioning rules.
- Requires video programming distributors, providers, and owners to convey emergency information in a manner that is accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
- Expands the requirement for video programming equipment (equipment that shows TV programs) to be capable of displaying closed captions, to devices with screens smaller than 13 inches (e.g., portable TVs, laptops, smart phones), and requires these devices to be able to pass through video descriptions and emergency information that is accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired, if technically feasible and achievable.
- Requires devices designed to record TV programs to pass through closed captions, video description, and emergency information so viewers are able to turn on/off the closed captions and video description when the TV program is played back, if achievable.
- Requires interconnection mechanisms (cables) to carry (from the source device to the consumer equipment – e.g., TV set) the information necessary to permit the display of closed captions and make video description and emergency information audible.
- Requires user controls for TVs and other video programming devices to be accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired, and requires TVs and other video programming devices to have a button, key, icon, or comparable mechanism designated for activating closed captioning and video description.
- Requires on-screen text menus and program guides displayed on TV by set-top boxes to be accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired and requires set-top boxes to have a button, key, icon, or comparable mechanism designated for activating closed captioning (when built-in to the set-top box).”
There are quite a few aspects to this Title of the CVAA and some regulations are a little confusing. So, let’s take a look at a few of these in more detail.
Captioning of Internet Programming
The first part to note is the first bullet point above, which “requires video programming that is closed captioned on TV to be closed captioned when distributed on the Internet (does not cover programs shown only on the Internet).”
This means that all video programming that is initially shown on TV and had closed captioning must also have closed captioning when it is distributed on the internet. Note that this does not apply for video programming that is solely shown on the internet and was never broadcast on television.
Here is a breakdown of the specific rules for the captioning of video programming:
- All pre-recorded video programming and live and near live (defined as broadcasted within 24 hours of filming) video programming that was displayed on television must now include closed captions when made available on the internet. This includes all devices that can display internet videos, including smart phones, set top boxes, personal computers, tablets and more. This also includes software that is integrated into a recording device, like TiVo. This also includes removable media players, such as DVD and BuRay players.
- This does not apply to video clips and outtakes, consumer-generated media and internet only movies.
- There are no specific rules on the quality of these captions, but the FCC has stated that they must be as good as the captions used on TV. IP video captioning standards should enable end-users to change the text color, opacity, font, and size and background color of the captioning.
Note that these regulations only apply to video programming equipment, products and services that reach end user consumers. All video programming equipment that is solely used for professional purposes are not required to adhere to these standards.
When did this come into effect?
These regulations came into effect on September 30th 2012 for prerecorded TV programming and on March 30th 2013 for live and near live programming.
Access to Video Programming Guides and Menus
The next important part of Title 2’s regulations is the requirement for access to video programming guides and menus on navigational devices. The CVAA requires “that user interfaces on digital apparatus and navigation devices used to view video programming be accessible to and usable by individuals who are blind or visually impaired.”
Basically, this means that video programming devices that allow navigation, such as remote controls, need to be able to be used by blind or visually impaired users. Also, any products that include a navigational menu, such as set-top boxes, need to be accessible to blind and visually impaired users. These navigation devices need to have a specific button, key or icon which is used solely for activating closed captioning and video description.
These regulations also apply to video programming distributors and the hardware and software manufacturers of multi-channel video programming (MPVD) distributors. However, it is important to note that only features that are required for video programming and user guides are covered under these regulations.
When did this come into effect?
This part of the CVAA was formally put in writing on May 30, 2013. However, the FCC has allowed affected entities with 3 years “to begin placing in service devices that comply with accessibility requirements related to on-screen text menus and guides.” This makes the current due date the 30th May 2016. However, this is subject to change by the FCC, so if this part of the act applies to your business, be sure to look out for updates on this matter.
Emergency Information Accessibility
One of the main priorities of the CVAA is to make emergency information and communication accessible to people with disabilities. You may have noticed that Title 1 mandates Text-to-911 for communication devices to enable users with disabilities to effectively communicate with emergency services.
Title 2 also includes new regulations that are designed to increase access to emergency information for disabled users. The CVAA requires “that emergency information provided in video programming be made accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired and that certain apparatus be capable of delivering video description and emergency information to those individuals.”
Effective November 30, 2015 the FCC is “requiring the use of a secondary audio stream to convey televised emergency information aurally, when such information is conveyed visually during programming other than newscasts, for example, in an on-screen crawl.”
- Require an aural presentation of emergency information that is provided visually in non-newscast programming to be available on a secondary audio stream
- Require the use of an aural tone to precede emergency information on the main program audio, and now also require use of the aural tone to precede emergency information on the secondary audio stream
- Permit (but do not require) the use text-to-speech (“TTS”) technologies as a method for providing an aural rendition of emergency information, and impose qualitative requirements if TTS is used
- Require that emergency information provided aurally on the secondary audio stream be conveyed at least twice in full
- Require that emergency information supersede all other programming on the secondary audio stream
In layman’s terms, this regulation requires that emergency information, such as severe weather warnings, is accessible for all users with disabilities. This means that emergency information must be conveyed both aurally and visually so that users with hearing or visual impairments can access the information.
For example, If a program shows emergency information visually (such as in the use of an on-screen crawl across the bottom of the screen) they must also deliver this information aurally. This must be done through the use of a second stream, which will host the audio version. The emergency information must be played at least twice in full and must supersede all other information (such as translation into another language, for example). Also, you can use text-to-speech software to do achieve this.
Products that enable Video Programming access must comply
These rules also apply to the producers of advanced communication services as products. Title 2 of the CVAA also “requires certain apparatus that receive, play back, or record video programming to make available video description services and accessible emergency information.”
The CVAA states that companies must ensure “that apparatus on which consumers receive, play back, or record video programming are capable of accessing emergency information and video description services.”
Basically, the FCC has mandated that all devices in which emergency information could be consumed must have the capabilities to communicate emergency information with users with disabilities. This includes tablets, smart phone, laptops and any other technology that enables the viewing of video programming.
When do these regulations come into effect?
For video producers who need to implement a secondary audio stream for emergency information, this needs to be in place by the 30th November 2015. For producers of advanced communication systems who have to make the secondary audio stream available on their devices, this will not be effective until June 2017.
Does this apply to your business?
That’s a good question! Remember it is your responsibility as the manufacturer or distributor to ensure that your products and/or services comply with the regulations of the CVAA whenever necessary.
According to the FCC, “the new emergency information requirements apply to video programming provided by entities that are already covered by Section 79.2 of the Commission’s rules–i.e., broadcasters, MVPDs, and any other distributor of video programming for residential reception that delivers such programming directly to the home and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission”
So, if you produce or deliver video programming content for personal consumption, then yes, the regulations of the CVAA apply to you. This includes (but is not limited to) emerging technologies including:
- Set-top boxes
- Digital cable ready televisions
- DVRs, such as TiVo
- Smart phones
- Any other device that contain multi-channel video programming (MPVD) capabilities or applications.
If you are unsure if your product or service has to comply with the CVAA’s regulations, you can contact the FCC here to discuss your business needs.
Should You Consider Using Text-to-Speech for this?
Absolutely! As Text-to-Speech providers, we know this seems a bit biased, but honestly you should. Text-to-Speech (TTS) is usually the easiest and cheapest option to implement, and probably the fastest too. To add to this, text-to-speech engines are dynamic and highly flexible meaning that they can be used to automatically find new information and read this aloud.
For example, we can help you set up your TTS software so that it automatically reads out the information that is presented visually on during your video programming. Text-to-speech technology can also be embedded in smart phones, remote controls, set-top-boxes, tablets, laptops and many other emerging technologies to provide access for disabled users.
The alternative is hiring a voice actor to read out your video program, broadcast or menu, which not only sounds incredibly boring for them but also very expensive for you. Not only is a text-to-speech solution cheaper, but it also runs automatically so you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re meeting the required standards. Also, our voices don’t need sleep – they can work whenever your program is.
Learn more about NeoSpeech’s Text-to-Speech software products or check out our TTS Cloud Service to learn about TTS online. Please feel free to fill out our Sales Inquiry form if you have any questions, inquiries, comments or would like to try a free demo.
Learn More about the CVAA and Title 2
If you’d like to learn more about the CVAA, Title 2 and whether or not it applies to you, here is a list of valuable resources:
- The Official Guide to the CVAA
- The CVAA
- The FCC’s Overview and Public Releases about the CVAA
- Implementation of the CVAA – Video Description
- About the emergency information rules
- User Interface, Guide and Menu Accessibility Commission document
- Recent Article on the current state of industry confusion around Title 2
Next Blog Post in the Series – What Your Business Needs to Do
Next time we’ll explore what your business need to do to ensure you are up to date with the FCC’s accessibility regulations for both titles of the CVAA. Next Monday’s post will be our last post in this series – so stay tuned!
Everything You Need to Know about the FCC Accessibility Regulations
The Basics of Title 2: Video Programming