FCC Outlines Deadlines for Captioning Compliance

The FCC has issued the deadlines by which various parts of its Closed Captioning Quality Order become official. That order included mandates for cable and broadcast caption quality, equipment, and various housekeeping items.

April 30: Rule revisions on equipment monitoring, the treatment of multicast streams, filing for exemptions, and getting program distributors' e-mails correct.

June 30: Rule revisions regarding use of Electronic Newsroom Technique (ENT) for captioning of live programing.

When OMB approves them: Rules about maintaining records on monitoring and maintenance of the captioning system, informal complaint procedures regarding use of ENT techniques.

Jan. 15, 2015 or OMB approval, whichever comes first: Rule revisions relating to captioning quality standards and best practices.

The FCC voted unanimously Feb. 20 to require program creators and distributors to make their best efforts to improve the quality of closed captioning.

While there were no quantitative standards, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said this was not an "act it and forget it" item and the FCC wants to remind stakeholders of the upcoming deadlines for compliance.

The item consisted of an order on the standards, a declaratory ruling clarifying various issues, including on VOD captioning, and a further notice that tees up the question of just who is responsible for insuring caption accuracy as well as whether quantitative standards are also needed.

The FCC pointed out in publishing the deadlines last week that the declaratory ruling went into effect immediately.

The FCC's 1997 order implementing closed captioning (captions that be can turned on or off) made video program distributors (VPDs), broadcasters and cable operators, responsible, but the further notice asks whether programmers and video caption companies should share the responsibility.

The new standards require video programming distributors to make their best efforts to insure that captions are accurate, synchronous, complete, and do not obscure important information. That also would apply to online video of shows that originated on TV, though not yet on video clips, which don't have to be captioned.

The FCC recognizes that it is easier to caption recorded programming than live and near-live, so will have higher accuracy and timeliness expectations of the former.

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.