FCC Exemptions for Closed Captioning

March 18, 2019 BY LILY BOND
Updated: November 22, 2019

free download: CVAA online video captioning requirements and deadlines

Federal laws in the United States, like FCC, CVAA, and ADA, require producers and distributors of video content to caption.

Any content broadcast on television must be captioned. The FCC has certain captioning standards that broadcasters must comply with including accuracy and unobstructed placement. Live broadcasted content must also be captioned.

Under the CVAA, any content that was previously published on television must be captioned when published online. This also applies to video clips and montages.

With these stricter guidelines, both in terms of what online video material must be captioned and also in terms of the quality required for those captions, you might be wondering, who is exempt from the FCC’s captioning rules?

There are basically two types of exemptions: self-implementing and economically burdensome.

Economically Burdensome Exemption


FCC broadcasting regulations govern video content that is broadcast on American television. Internet content is only subject to FCC regulation if it also aired on US television with captions.

See CVAA Online Video Captioning Requirements for more information.

The Commission can be petitioned for an economically burdensome exemption from closed captioning rules if compliance with the rules would be economically burdensome. The petition must be supported by sufficient evidence.

The guidelines for filing an FCC petition for an exemption from closed captioning require the petitioner to provide the details of the program they are requesting exemption from closed captioning for, including the cost of closed captioning and the impact of captioning their programming, as well as a detailed explanation of the petitioner’s financial resources (including proof of having sought programming distributer assistance and additional sponsorships).

Self-Implementing Exemption

To qualify for a self-implementing exemption, the provider does not need to file a petition; the provider must simply meet one or more of the FCC’s thirteen criteria:

  • Programming is subject to contractual captioning restrictions
  • Captioning requirement has been waived due to economically burdensome exemption
  • Programming is in a language other than English or Spanish
  • Programming is primarily textual
  • Programming is distributed between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. local time
  • Interstitials, promotional announcements, and public service announcements that are 10 minutes or less in duration
  • EBS (Educational Broadband Service) programming
  • Locally produced and distributed non-news programming with no repeat value
  • Programming on new networks for the first four years (although the new guidelines are re-evaluating this exemption)
  • Primarily non-vocal musical programming
  • Captioning expense in excess of 2% of gross revenues
  • Channels producing revenues under $3,000,000
  • Locally produced educational programming

Churches and Religious Broadcasters Must Also Comply

take the quiz: which captioning laws apply to you?

As of October 2011, the FCC requires religious organizations to comply with the same captioning laws as other media publishers.

 Read more about accessibility laws for faith.  

get started with fcc compliant captions today

This post was originally published by Lily Bond on April 5, 2014 and has since been updated.

This blog post is written for educational and general information purposes only and does not constitute specific legal advice. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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