Groups Seek ATSC 3.0 Captioning Assurances From FCC

A host of groups serving the deaf and hard-of-hearing community have asked the FCC to make sure that closed captioning requirements carry over to the voluntary rollout of the ATSC 3.0 next gen transmission standard.

That came in comments on the FCC proposal to allow broadcasters to start rolling out the new standard alongside the current ATSC 1.0 (ATSC 3.0 is not compatible with current TV sets).

"The captioning rules, which serve as 'curb cuts' to the social, cultural, democratic, and economic benefits of broadcast television, have ensured equal access over the past quarter-century…" they told the commission.

They said they were generally supportive of the rollout, and that after conversations with the National Association of Broadcasters they believe that the transition can occur without disrupting closed captions but want the FCC to make sure that happens.

That includes by requiring both ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 transmissions to comply with the FCC's closed captioning rules and that it will not accept added costs or "technical difficulties" as a reason to waive those requirements. And while they say they are fine with not requiring MVPDs to pass through ATSC 3.0 signals in addition to 1.0 (the FCC is proposing not to require ATSC 3.0 carriage), they want the FCC to make clear that if they do carry them, all streams they pass through must be captioned.

The groups say that since the FCC anticipates that broadcasters may charge for some ATSC 3.0 features, 4K for example, they should not be allowed to charge for any accessibility features. They said while the FCC does not appear to be contemplating allowing such charges, and broadcasters have not suggested them, to be on the safe side they want the FCC to clarify that they will come at no cost to consumers.

Among the groups signing on to the comments were Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the National Association of the Deaf, Hearing Loss Association of America, the Association of Late-Deafened Adults, and the Cerebral Palsy and Deaf Organization.

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.