FCC Moves to Expand Closed Captioning Rules to Web Clips

The FCC adopted new rules on Friday to expand the types of online video that broadcasters, cable and satellite channels must caption for the deaf and hearing impaired.

The agency already requires that full-length programming that appears with closed-captioning on TV also include captioning when the video is posted online. The new rules extend captioning to clips of that TV content.

“This is just the beginning in dealing with our responsibility to make sure that individuals with specific needs are at the front of the technology train, not at the back of the technology train,” said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

He was joined by fellow commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn. Commissioner Ajit Pai concurred, while Commissioner Michael P. O’Rielly gave approval to part of the order and concurred on other parts.

The rules establish a series of deadlines between 2016 and 2017 for captioning the clips, including live- and almost-live programming. Clips from TV programming will have to be captioned by Jan. 1, 2016, but the FCC also is giving extra time for captioning of clips of live and near-live programming until July 1, 2017. Broadcasters and cable firms will have 12 hours to caption those live clips, and 8 hours for near-live programming.

While expressing the need for accessibility — O’Rielly noted that 35 million to 50 million Americans have some kind of hearing loss — he and Pai expressed concerns about the regulations impact on the availability of video on the Web. Pai noted that ABC, NBC and Fox News have made big progress in voluntarily offering captioning of clips on the Web.

Pai called for a “cost benefit analysis” to the regulation, and expressed worries that smaller companies would stop uploading clips because of the costs of compliance. O’Rielly expressed reservations of the rules be implemented before determining “without a shadow of a doubt” that they would not result in a “reduction of clips on the Internet.”

Nevertheless, the rules do have some flexibility for smaller companies that face an economic burden in meeting the requirements.

Wheeler noted that viewing of TV content over the Internet is poised to exceed that of viewing solely via an antenna.

Too often, he said, the hearing impaired “have been told they have to wait until technology catches up to them. ‘Waiting until they get around to it’ is no longer good enough.”


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