FCC Convenes Forum on OTT Closed Captioning

Closed captioning on Acorn TV's Jack Irish
Closed captioning as seen on streamer Acorn TV's series 'Jack Irish.' (Image credit: Acorn TV)

The Federal Communications Commission is getting video streamers, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) and others together to talk about the state of closed captioning for online programming.

It has scheduled a Dec. 2 forum with a keynote address from Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a longtime advocate for greater communications accessibility as author of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).

The 1 p.m.-3:45 p.m. event is co-hosted by the FCC‘s Media Bureau and Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau. It will feature two panels of speakers, including streamers academics, consumers advocates and cable operators.

Also: Keeping Closed Captioning Ahead of the Curve

“Consumers currently access video programming from providers that range from traditional entities, such as broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), to a growing number of online streaming service providers, including those that operate social media platforms,” said the bureaus of the need for the event. ”The Video Programming Accessibility Forum – Online Closed Captioning will explore the state of closed captioning availability for online video programming and discuss ways to enhance accessibility, including the Commission’s authority to adopt new rules. The Forum also will explore current and prospective best practices and other existing or possible voluntary efforts that could enhance the availability of closed captioning online.”

Back in April, the FCC officially sought input on what changes it might need to make to video accessibility rules given that some of the requirements may have been "overtaken by new technologies."

Disability advocates have argued that one of the technologies the rules fail to capture is over-the-top video.

The FCC‘s rules implement the CVAA and apply closed captioning and audio description requirements to a boatload of communications technologies in addition to TV, including advanced communications services like interconnected and non-interconnected voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP), electronic messaging, interoperable video conferencing and browsing the net on smart phones.

Those advocates want the FCC to seriously consider how to apply captioning and audio description mandates to video streamers. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.