FCC Seeks Closed Captioning Comments

The Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday at its open meeting that it has begun a rulemaking proceeding to assess whether its closed captioning rules are working effectively and whether any revisions are necessary. The FCC Bureau of Consumer and Government Affairs will oversee the proceeding.

The current closed captioning rules have been in place since Jan. 1, 1998. When they were adopted, the FCC stated that it would review the rules after closed captioning was implemented to determine whether closed captioning was fulfilling its mission. The FCC initiated this review in response to a Petition for Rulemaking filed by Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. (TDI), the National Association of the Deaf, Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc., the Association for Late Deafened Adults, and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network.

The FCC is asking for comments on several compliance and quality issues relating to closed captioning that were raised in TDI’s Petition, including:

  • Is there a need to adopt standards for nontechnical quality of closed captioning, such as, for example, accuracy of transcription? What would be the costs of mandating such standards? Should any nontechnical quality standards be different for preproduced programs versus live programming?
  • Is there a need for additional procedures to prevent and remedy technical problems such as, for example, captions not being delivered intact, or captions ending before the end of the programming? If so, what form should they take?
  • Should distributors have specific mechanisms in place for monitoring and maintenance?
  • Should the existing complaint procedure be changed?
  • Should the Commission establish specific per-violation forfeiture amounts for noncompliance with the captioning rules?
  • Should the Commission require video programming distributors to file compliance reports as to the amount of closed captioning they provide?
  • Should the ban on counting electronic newsroom technique captioning to meet captioning requirements be extended beyond the top 25 markets?
  • What is the current status on the supply of available captioners?
  • Should the FCC require electronic filing of requests for exemption from the closed captioning requirements?

The responsibility for ensuring that programming is captioned lies with both distributors, including cable television operators and broadcasters, and program networks. The proposed changes to the existing rules could significantly affect the responsibilities and captioning costs for both distributors and program networks. Therefore, we anticipate that our operator and program network clients will want to submit comments in this proceeding.

The FCC has not yet released the text of the rulemaking notice. When it does, we will update you with additional relevant details and we will be available to discuss with you your participation in this proceeding.