FCC Releases Proposed Internet Closed Captioning Rules


In a very late release today, the FCC has issued for comment its proposed rules for closed captioning of IP-delivered videos (NPRM available here). Pursuant to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (discussed earlier here) and other related events, the FCC is required to adopt final Internet closed captioning rules by January 12, 2011. This gives the FCC less than four months to solicit and consider comments and replies before issuing its final rules. Consequently, the FCC has provided a mere 20 days (from publication in the Federal Register) to submit comments, and 10 days to submit reply comments. Interested parties may want to start drafting their comments now.

As we noted earlier here, the Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee had issued its report of recommendations for implementing closed captioning on the Internet. That report recommended, among other things, an Internet closed captioning standard (SMPTE-TT) and a schedule of tiered compliance deadlines.

In the NPRM, the FCC has proposed NOT to adopt a technical standard, but has instead proposed to allow parties to negotiate an appropriate interchange format. The FCC believes that, if SMPTE-TT is indeed the "best interchange format, [then] the industry will settle on that format without Commission intervention and, if it is not [the best], the industry will come to a different agreed-upon format." The FCC did, however, leave itself the option to adopt a standard under the final rules. Thus, the FCC has asked whether it should allow parties to comply using "alternate means" rather than an FCC-adopted standard.

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