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FCC Ruling: Closed Captioning Requirements Extended to Online Video Clips

  • This morning (July 11, 2014), the FCC ruled that closed captioning requirements for IP delivered video content will extend to video clips. This decision was postponed from the January 2012 ruling, which stated that all full-length online programming that previously aired on television with captions must have closed captions when it is put online. Their decision not to include video clips in this ruling was petitioned for reconsideration, and the FCC sought further comment on the issue. The FCC and the Media Bureau determined that the response received supported the addition of captioning requirements for video clips.

    Deadlines for Closed Captioning of IP Delivered Video Clips

    In the ruling this morning, the Media Bureau stated, “A commission requirement for captioning IP delivered video clips will ensure that content will be accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Consistent with the CVAA, the commission’s IP rules will apply to video clips only if the associated video programming was shown on television with captions.”

    This new requirement will have a series of three deadlines:

    • January 1, 2016: Single excerpt clips from captioned television programs must be captioned.
    • January 1, 2017: Montages from captioned television programs must be captioned.
    • July 1, 2017: Time sensitive video clips must be captioned, including live and near-live programming. Live programming will have a 12 hour grace period after the clip appears on television before the clip must be captioned if placed online; near-live programming will have an 8 hour grace period.

    The ruling does not extend to video clips that are in distributors’ online video libraries before the applicable compliance deadline. It does, however, impose the same quality standards that apply to full-length programming.

    Issues for Consideration Regarding Captioning of Video Clips

    The ruling also lays forth four issues related to captioning IP delivered video clips, which may require further discussion:

    • The commission considers the application of the IP closed captioning rules to the delivery of video clips by third party distributors.
    • The commission asks whether the grace periods for time sensitive video clips should be decreased or eliminated as technological advancements render the grace periods unnecessary.
    • The commission seeks comment on whether the requirements should be extended to mashups of multiple programs.
    • The commission considers how these rules should be applied to video clips that appear online before appearing on television with captions.

    The Commission’s Decision to Require Closed Captions for Video Clips

    In response to the Media Bureau’s report on IP delivered video clips, the commissioners unanimously concurred with the ruling. Chairman Tom Wheeler stated, “For far too long, individuals with special needs have been sitting at the back of the innovation train. They’ve been told they have to wait until technology catches up with them. ‘Wait until we get around to it’ is no longer good enough. It is time to challenge technology to solve problems up front.”

    This ruling marks a victory for the accessibility community. It shows that as technology evolves, the commission is devoted to modernizing rulings and updating policies to reflect such advances. The commission’s decision to require closed captioning for IP delivered video clips represents yet another step towards full implementation of the CVAA and greater accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

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