FCC Proposes Closed Captioning Rules for Online Video, Seeks Comment

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comment on proposed rules for the closed captioning of video programming delivered via Internet protocol (i.e., “IP video”), under the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). As discussed in our advisory on the CVAA and our overview of the Report by the Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC) making recommendations for FCC implementation, the CVAA compels the adoption of rules that require IP video programming to have closed captions if it appeared on TV with captions after the new rules’ effective date.

This proceeding will affect TV stations, cable systems, broadcast and cable networks and virtually every other professional video program producer who is now, or will be in the future, making their programming available on the Internet. With a proceeding so wide-reaching, with a very short comment period given the congressionally-mandated implementation schedule, everyone involved in these businesses needs to know what the FCC is proposing.

The NPRM addresses a variety of topics necessary to adoption and implementation of such regulations. In order to meet the Jan. 12, 2012 deadline imposed by the CVAA, the NPRM requires comments to be filed within 20 days after Federal Register publication, and reply comments 10 days after the initial comment deadline. The issues raised in the NPRM for comment include, among others, identification of the entities and devices/software within the reach of the CVAA’s captioning requirements, a schedule of deadlines for when various categories of covered IP video must begin including captions, technical standards for IP video, and complaint and waiver procedures. However, the FCC proposes NOT to adopt a technical standard but rather to allow parties to negotiate an appropriate interchange format, in the belief that the standard perceived as best will be adopted by the industry without FCC intervention.

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Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

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