Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 18
KUSI-TV Avoids Fines from FCC
Local San Diego independent television station KUSI has been released from all fines related to 22 violations of Federal Communications Commission rules relating to making emergency information available via text as well as audio.
The FCC first proposed in 2005 and finally in 2008 levied fines of $25,000 against the station for actions related to the San Diego County wildfires of 2003, where emergency evacuation information was reported verbally but not relaying that information visually for viewers with hearing impairments. The station had actually faced a maximum fine of $160,000, or $8,000 for each violation, but nonetheless repeatedly appealed the reduced amount.
“I think the FCC has gone crazy with fines thinking this is their sole purpose in life,” station owner Mike McKinnon told Broadcasting & Cable at the time the penalties were announced.
“People with hearing disabilities have a right to the same timely emergency information as stations provide to their hearing audiences,” responded then-FCC chairman Michael Powell.
KUSI argued at the time that its reporters were often conveying incomplete information as the disaster progressed, and that relaying this information to the hearing impaired could have caused them to make bad decisions based on potentially incomplete or unconfirmed information. The FCC’s response was that if the information was potentially dangerous enough to keep out of the hands of the hearing impaired, perhaps it should’ve been kept from other viewers as well.
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