Numerous Small Television Producers Seek Waiver of FCC Closed Captioning Rules

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

In the wake of Commission's rejection of hundreds of closed captioning waivers last year, many small television producers are now seeking new waivers for relief from the Commission's television closed captioning rules.  Last October, the Commission overturned nearly 300 "economically burdensome" captioning waivers on the grounds that the FCC had failed to apply the correct standard of review and had failed to follow the proper procedure for considering the requests on a case-by-case basis after public comment.  (See our earlier posting here for further details about the Commission's October decision.)  Since that decision, over 150 new waiver requests have been filed with the FCC, with most of them coming in the past month or so.  The vast majority of these waiver requests have been filed by very small program producers who assert that requiring closed captions for the television program they produce would be economically burdensome.  These waiver requests often involve religious programs, local real estate shows, and local sports or entertainment programs. Consistent with FCC's October clarification, the Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau is releasing Public Notices soliciting comment and input on each waiver request.  So far, the Commission has issued 14 such public notices in the past few days.  An example of one such notice is available here.  Once the particular request is put out for public notice, interested parties will have 30 days to file comments or oppositions with the FCC.  The recent public notices are careful to instruct parties to file comments or oppositions with the Commission in paper.  Any comments or oppositions sent via email will not be considered part of the official record.

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