FCC Seeks Input on Accessibility Rules

(Image credit: N/A)

The FCC is seeking 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." 

If you ask disability advocates they will argue that one of the technologies the FCC rules are not capturing is over-the-top video.

The FCC's rules implement the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (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 VoIP, electronic messaging, interoperable video conferencing and browsing the net on smart phones.

"Given changes in technology and industry practices, as well as taking into account consumer experiences, we seek comment on whether there is a need to update these rules," the Consumer and Governmental Affairs, Media and Wireless Bureau's said in seeking comments, which are due June 21. "Comments filed will help inform the Commission’s determination of whether to take additional actions—and if so, what measures should be proposed or taken—in furtherance of the stated purpose and spirit of the CVAA to make communications services more accessible for persons with disabilities."

Also Read: FCC Gives ESPN COVID-19-Related Break on Audio Descriptions

In that spirit, advocates for video accessibility for the deaf and blind communities want the FCC to seriously consider how to apply captioning and audio description* mandates to video streamers.

That pitch came in meetings last month between new acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel and groups including the National Association of the Deaf and the American Foundation for the Blind, according to a document filed with the FCC.

They want Rosenworcel and the commission to put fresh eyes on the captioning authority they have under the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which at the time it was enacted, they point out, did not "extensively consider" the implications of online video. 

It is a new world, they suggested, with a proliferation of streaming services.

Also Read: Fox News Channel, MSNBC Seek Exemptions from FCC Audio Descriptions

In that same vein, they said the FCC needs to look at audio description outside the top broadcasters and cable networks. For example, descriptions once created for broadcast or cable should persist across platforms, including streaming services, and be available in non-English languages.

In addition to reviewing rules tied to the CVAA, the FCC is also seeking input on "other initiatives the Commission could undertake to improve access to video programming and communications services through other existing sources of statutory authority..."

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.