FCC Pushes Back the Date on New Captioning Quality Standards

We've all been there at one time in our life, certainly in our teenage years. Your teacher told you months ago that there would be a major exam at semester’s end and has given you ample time and resources to prepare. But we all just love to wait until the last minute. Maybe the week before, or sometimes the night before. We frantically thumb through stacks of articles, highlighter in hand, trying to absorb as much information as humanly possible in that 24-hour span and work through the night repeating the mantra, “I’ll sleep tomorrow.” If you’re having flashbacks of those days with the FCC’s proposed due date for the new closed captioning quality standards less than 24 hours away, then you can relax and breathe.

Prompted by the Public Notice put out by the FCC, we reached out and confirmed with Eliot Greenwald (Attorney-Advisor, Disability Rights Office) at the FCC that the new firm date for these new caption quality standards will be March 16, 2015. The decision to push the deadline back two months came down to a few uncertainties hanging out there. Moreover, they had found that there was a general lack of informed and prepared Video Programmers (VPs) and Video Program Distributors (VPDs) because the material hasn't been aggressively presented to everyone.

On December 12, 2014, the FCC first showed signs of this deadline postponement when there was a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released. It’s apparent the rules of the original rulemaking were not all sorted and The Commission was still looking to define a few areas of vagueness. Specifically: who’s responsible for the captions, the VPDs or the VPs? The proposed rules currently allow the VPD to rely on a compliance certificate provided by the content creators.

Certificates of Closed Captioning Compliance

Section 79.1(j)(1) requires Video Program Distributors to exercise best efforts to obtain a Video Programmer Best Practices’ Certificate from each video programmer stating one of the following:

  • The video programmer’s programming satisfies the required caption quality standards 79.1(j)(2);
  • In the ordinary course of business, the video programmer adopts and follows the Best Practices 79.1(k)(1) in captioning its programming; or
  • The video programmer is exempt from the closed captioning rules, under one or more properly obtained exemptions. If a video programmer claims exemption from the captioning rules, it must specify the exact exemption.

To help satisfy the VPDs best efforts obligation of locating a programmer's certification, we have a certificate created for our individual clients in preparation to the VPDs forthcoming requests. It is to be made widely available to consumers, Video Programming Distributors, and other interested parties by the content creator.

STATIONS: A blank certificate form is located here, completely customize-able and printable. Share this link with your producers and get them crossed off of your lists.

Further Clarification

Additionally, Mr. Greenwald at the FCC also clarified an area of the rulemaking pertaining to legacy content. He concluded that, “A program that is a rerun of a pre-March 16, 2015 program and has already been captioned need not be re-captioned unless the quality of the captioning is so bad that it would not count as being captioned under the rules in effect prior to March 16, 2015.”

That's a relief!

No More Excuses

This date of March 16th is firmed and you can no longer dawdle in the hopes of more delays. Check out our previous blog series to get caught up on the new standards:

But what about all of us that were diligent in our planning and have grown out of our teenage, procrastinating, ways? Well, we can sit back and enjoy the rest of the semester knowing that there’s no late-night cramming in our future. Congratulations, you're officially the teacher’s pet.

You can also applaud yourselves knowing that you are putting forth your best efforts to ensure that the content you distribute is widely accessible and best replicates the experience of television programs for all audiences. After all, this is a much-needed improvement of the captioning guidelines and will be beneficial for the overall broadcast experience for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities. For that, we thank the FCC for making this push for the implementation of these higher standards.