Your Tax Dollars at Work: EAS, CAP, CALM, & More!
by Leslie Ellis // June 25 2012
As a general rule, I avoid the tech-regulatory scene, because it is gets so bogged down with gibberish that typically boils down to the words “no you cannot.” Yet, a passel of deadlines are looming, which seemed a good time for a summertime regulatory round-up. In deadline order:
Emergency Alert System and “CAP.” Regulators: FEMA, FCC, National Weather Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Deadline: June 30, 2012. What it is: Here in Colorado, we’re already getting the afternoon tornado warnings, which turn the TV into a bleeping, black-screen, with white text advising us to take immediate shelter, and accompanying audio, saying the same thing. EAS and the common alerting protocol (CAP) extends that type of work nationally, so that the President (of the U.S.) could theoretically interrupt TV programming to tell us something really important. At an MSO level, the work of it is software changes to the gear that currently handles local EAS.
Video Descriptive Services. Regulator: FCC. Deadline: July 1, 2012. What It is: This has lots to do with a little button on your TV remote labeled “SAP,” for “Secondary Audio Program.” Right now, and depending on where you are, pushing that button invokes a monaural mix-down of the sound track, with all of the speaking done in Spanish.
With VDS, however, pressing SAP would also mix the audio channel down to monaural, but instead of Spanish, you’d hear the original feed, plus a description of what’s going on visually. Not so much “suddenly, the phone rang,” because the viewer could hear it ringing. More “she put the phone to her ear anxiously.” The work of this is more on program networks than MSOs, but if you’re bigger than 50,000 subscribers, you’re on the hook to pass through 50 hours of VDS-augmented programming every quarter.
Closed Captioning for IP Video. Regulator: FCC. Deadline: September 30, 2012 for program networks; January 14, 2013 for device manufacturers (which in and of itself is an inscrutable bifurcation.) What it is: Rules that require program networks to put closed captions on full-length video content that’s made available in Internet Protocol (think HBO Go, Xfinity, etc.)
This one is riddled with complexities that will make you want to poke your own eyes out. The Report and Order details “VPOs” (Video Programming Owners), “VPPs,” (Video Programming Providers, and 112 deliriously entertaining (not!) pages of accompanying regulatory-speak. Stretch and hydrate before you dive in.
Commercial Audio Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM). Regulator: FCC. Deadline: Dec. 13, 2012. What It is: Ways to not get blasted out of your chair when commercials play at way higher volumes than program material. By year-end, MSOs need to begin periodic testing of networks that don’t “self certify” that they’re CALM compliant. Big halleluiah on this one.