Note: Caption Action 2 has contacted Flo TV with questions and is waiting for their response any time now. In the meantime, here is what we know about Flo TV, and more!
What is Flo TV
Flo TV is a mobile TV broadcaster. They broadcast mobile television to cell phones, the back of car headrests, and to a Flo TV Personal Television mobile device. Flo TV was launched in March 2007 as MediaFlo TV by Verizon Wireless and MediaFlo USA. Today they are a subsidiary of Qualcomm. That means they have had since 2007 to make themselves accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing? Did they??
No, they did not! On their FAQ page it says:
Q: Is Closed Captioning available on the FLO TV™ service?Flo TV is apparently NOT broadcast over the Internet. It is regular digital television broadcast over UHF channels. Flo TV is available on AT&T and Verizon cell phones, and is coming to the iPhone too. A check of the AT&T Mobile TV FAQ page shows nothing about captioning. Neither does Verizon's V Cast Mobile TV FAQ.
A: No. Currently, the FLO TV service does not support closed captioning. New product features will be announced on our website.
Caption Action 2 made a call to Verizon Wireless to confirm the lack of captions. This is the relay conversation:
Verizon: my name is brandy GA
Caption Action 2: hello brandy. i have a question. I hope you can answer my question. if not please put me in touch with someone who can. I am interested in getting Flo TV which is available on Verizon's cell phones. But I am deaf. I need closed captions. Are closed captions available on Flo TV service on Verizon's cell phones qga
Verizon: ok let me pull up some let me pull up some information regarding flo tv so that i can check if closed captions is available GA
Caption Action 2: yes please. i checked their website and it looks like closed captions are not available but i wanted to double check with you. ga
Verizon: i ve looked through my information and unfortunately at this point mobile tv with flo tv does not have available closed captions yet GA
She recommended I consider buying for example, a Blackberry for Verizon service. Blackberry does have closed captioning display capability as explained in this blog post from Inside the Blackberry Accessibility Team. The iPhone can also display closed captions. WGBH Media Access Group provided Caption Action 2 with a table that lists handheld devices and their captioning capability.
Captioning Solutions for Handheld Media and Mobile Devices Comparison Chart
There was no point in calling AT & T too. The answer would be the same - no captions because Flo TV does not have them. This would be true no matter what cell phone carried the Flo TV service.
Instead, Caption Action 2 called Flo TV directly to ask for confirmation of the information on their website. Spoke with the assistant to Bill Stone, Flo TV's president. She said that the information on the website about lack of closed captioning is correct. When Jamie asked about the possibility of re-engineering the Flo TV chip, which is needed for a device to be able to receive Flo TV broadcasts -- to add closed caption decoding circuitry, the assistant said the Flo TV chips were provided by the Qualcomm Tech Department and she did not know anything about engineering. Jamie wasn't satisfied with this response, and asked for more information. That's why Caption Action 2 is still waiting for a response from someone else with Flo TV, as noted above.
Is Flo TV Breaking the Law?
The FCC captioning regulations state that a multichannel video programming distributor is covered by the law. A multichannel video programming distributor is defined in 47 CFR section 76.1000(e). According to the COAT position statement and Justia.com, a multichannel video programming distributor is defined as:"...an entity engaged in the business of making available for purchase, by subscribers or customers, multiple channels of video programming."
Based on this definition and the fact that Flo TV has multiple channels, does this mean that existing law already covers Flo TV? Flo TV is a subscription service, AND they offer multiple "cable" channels such as TLC.
Does HR 3101 Apply to Flo TV?
In addition, a check of the HR 3101 bill found this language:
The term ‘video programming’ means programming provided by, or generally considered comparable to programming provided by, a television broadcast station, even if such programming is distributed over the Internet or by some other means.Maybe "some other means" could be interpreted to include mobile digital television! Nevertheless, there are still open questions about both the existing law and the proposed law with regard to mobile digital television!
What Can We Do Now?
In the absence of a law to guarantee our right to access to services and devices like Flo TV, we deaf and hard of hearing people must take things into our own hands. We need to make such a public example of Flo TV that the next mobile television service to launch will think twice before leaving the deaf and hard of hearing out!
We can't wait for HR 3101 to be passed. Caption Action 2 suggests that deaf and hard of hearing people who want Flo TV to add captioning capability to their Personal Television device and to their mobile television broadcasts take the following actions:
- Flo TV is on Facebook. Their Facebook URL is http://www.facebook.com/flotv. Become a fan of Flo TV and post complaints about their not having caption display capability!
- Flo TV is on Twitter. Their Twitter URL is http://twitter.com/flotv. If you are on Twitter, post reply requests for captioning to @flotv, and include @deafnessguide so Caption Action 2 can track your Twitter posts.
- Call Flo TV in their California office, at 858 587-1121 (Operator, and ask to be transferred to Flo TV). The Contact Us page is only a form with no phone number.
- Flo TV's website includes a newsroom with a "in the news" section that reprints all the media coverage of Flo TV. Contact the reporters and media sources to let them know that Flo TV does not have closed caption capability. Caption Action 2 will be making some of these contacts ourselves.
- Look for blogs that have blogged about FloTV. To find these blogs, use Google's blog search, Search Blogs for Flo TV. Post comments on the blogs, or contact the bloggers, to let them know about the lack of captioning capability on Flo TV.
Mobile television is starting to really grow! One look at the website/blogsite Reiter's Mobile TV Report shows this! A competitor to Flo TV is MobiTV. A search of their support knowledge base fails to turn up anything about captioning. But there's more! Free mobile digital TV is coming, according to the Los Angeles Times and other news sources. This free mobile television uses the Open Mobile Video Coalition's mobile digital TV standard for local television broadcasts (Flo TV is national broadcast), as reported by TechNewsWorld.com.
We need HR 3101!!!
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