FCC: Live Programmers Will Get Some Leeway With Online Captioning

When the FCC begins requiring all time-sensitive, IP-delivered video clips to be captioned July 1, 2017 (including live- and near-live programming), programmers and distributors will be given some leeway on timing and accuracy, according to Eliot Greenwald, deputy chief of the FCC’s Disability Rights Office.

Just not too much.

“The FCC will consider the challenges associated with captioning live programming, because, in particular, the lack of opportunity to review the caption before the program is shown, [and] because what you have is … somebody preparing the live captions as the program is happening,” Greenwald said March 9 during an online presentation. He aimed to clarify a Feb. 18 FCC order that pinpointed who’s responsible for complying with closed captioning requirements, which divides responsibility between both video programming distributors (VPDs) and video programmers.

The FCC requirements apply only to online version of traditionally broadcast video, and not to programming that originated online.

At the end of March the FCC will begin requiring that IP videos be captioned within 15 days of being placed online, up from 30 days (a deadline required under the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010), and starting Jan. 1, 2017 the FCC will also begin requiring that montages from captioned TV programs are also captioned online.

Finally, on July 1, 2017, the FCC will require that all time-sensitive video clips (including live- and near-live programming) are captioned online, with live clips given a 12-hour grace period (eight for near-live programming). The FCC is defining near live as programming performed and recorded within 24 hours of it first airing on TV. Near-live programming would be programming including late-night talk shows, which have been recorded hours in advance.

While programmers will be tasked with making sure online video captions are accurate, the distributors will be the ones responsible for the technical aspects (proper placement, synchronization with audio, etc.), Greenwald said.

“Video programmers, those … that produce the programming, are responsible for closed captioning problems that stem from production of the captions and transmission of the captions, up to the point where they are handed off to [VPDs],” he said. “VPDs are responsible for quality problems [that are] the result of the VPD’s faulty equipment and failure to pass through the captions [to] viewers.”

He also noted that the February order has VPDs now responsible for initially addressing the complaints viewers have with closed captions, and will require each programmer to file a certification with the FCC that they’re in compliance with the closed captioning rules.

Lastly, Greenwald stressed that the FCC rules relate to IP transmission of programs that have been shown on TV, and not to consumer-created content appearing on the likes of YouTube, or content like Netflix’s slate of originals, since they were not originally broadcast on TV with captions. 

The presentation, put on by video captioning company 3Play Media, can be accessed here.