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FCC Considers Extending Closed Captioning Requirements to Video Clips

  • Many FCC decisions on closed captioning requirements have recently passed, and with them, a renewed discussion about the requirements for captioning video clips has commenced. As of March, 2014, any program that aired on television with captions must also be captioned within 45 days of being placed online. The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) will phase in more deadlines over the next two years, eventually requiring archived video to be captioned within 15 days of going online.

    The FCC seems to be cracking down on captioning requirements: in January, 2014 they mandated new user control requirements for online video captions; and in February, 2014 they released a declaratory ruling on caption quality standards. In the wake of these decisions, the FCC is considering revising their stance on video clips, which have been notably exempt from captioning requirements.

    Defining “Video Clips”

    The FCC defines video clips as “excerpts of full-length video programming.” As of now, the CVAA only applies to full-length video programming, which is why clips are exempt. However, nowhere does the FCC state how short the excerpt must be to qualify as a “video clip,” or how much of the programming it can include and still be considered a clip. The FCC has indicated that an excerpt that includes “substantially all” of the full-length programming is not to be treated as a video clip, but that is not very specific. The FCC has also determined that shaving off short segments from a program, as well as splitting a program into various segments, does not qualify your video as a “video clip.” Again, however, there is no line in the sand for determining what qualifies as a clip.

    This is where the issue lies: video clips can oftentimes retain the majority of content from full-length programming, but not require captions.

    The FCC Leans Towards Requiring Captions for Video Clips

    The FCC recognizes the inherent issues with excluding video clips from captioning requirements. While leaning towards making the decision to require captioning for video clips, the Commission is considering the input of programmers about the financial and practical burdens that clip-captioning would impose. The FCC and the Media Bureau took comments about the issue through January 27, 2014, and are using that input to make their final decision. They are considering in their decision:

    • The portion of video clips already captioned, as well as the quality of the captions
    • The extent to which captioning of video clips is increasing
    • The technical challenges presented by captioning video clips
    • The possibility of requiring captions for some, but not all, video clips (and in this case, which subsets should be included)

    We hope that the FCC will come to a decision in the near future regarding this issue. In the meantime, you can read the comments filed with the FCC to keep up to date with the information under review.

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