Waterman, Montclair Ask FCC to Scrap Fines Imposed on WBBH, WZVN

Sep 9, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Waterman Broadcasting Corp., licensee of WBBH-TV, Fort Myers, Fla., and Montclair Communications, licensee of WZVN-TV in Naples, Fla., on Friday asked the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement bureau to scrap $24,000 fines the bureau assessed against each of the stations for allegedly failing to fully comply with agency rules requiring stations to share emergency information with the hearing-impaired.

In a joint filing at the FCC, the companies said the bureau fined the stations for allegedly failing to include visual warnings during 44 seconds of simulcast coverage during the more than 223 hours of news the stations devoted to Hurricane Charley last year. “During coverage of any approaching hurricane, a newsroom resembles a military combat center,” the companies said.

“For stations to provide effective coverage of hurricanes and other situations warranting many hours of continuous coverage under most difficult circumstances, the FCC must avoid unrealistic enforcement standards that will impair the ability of journalists and licensees to make the needed good faith judgment calls required during chaotic and fast-changing conditions.”

In a public notice issued late Friday, the Federal Communications Commission warned television stations, cable systems and satellite TV operators that they are obligated to ensure that emergency information is made available to the hearing and visually-impaired in their audiences, despite the challenges that Hurricane Katrina has presented to stations in the Gulf Coast states.

The FCC said the visual information can be presented with closed-captions, crawls, or even writing on a blackboard. “Broadcasts of emergency information lacking visual displays and video descriptions deny persons with hearing and vision disabilities access to vital information,” the FCC said. “The Commission recognizes that Hurricane Katrina presented and continues to present extraordinarily difficult challenges to video programming distributors in continuing or re-establishing their operations,” the FCC added. “To the extent that video programming distributors have questions or concerns regarding compliance with . . . our rules during this time period, they should contact the Commission to discuss those concerns.”