FCC Expands Online Closed-Captioning Rules

The rules apply to video clips that have aired on TV.

National Journal
Brendan Sasso
July 11, 2014, 8:06 a.m.

Web­sites will soon need to of­fer closed cap­tion­ing for more videos.

In a bid to en­sure ac­cess for people who are deaf and hard-of-hear­ing, the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion voted un­an­im­ously Fri­day to re­quire web­sites to of­fer closed cap­tion­ing of video clips that have already aired on tele­vi­sion with cap­tions. The rules wouldn’t ap­ply to You­Tube clips or Net­flix videos that have nev­er aired on TV.

“This is just the be­gin­ning of deal­ing with our re­spons­ib­il­ity to make sure that in­di­vidu­als with spe­cial needs are at the front of the tech­no­logy train — not the back,” FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er said.

The 21st Cen­tury Com­mu­nic­a­tions and Video Ac­cess­ib­il­ity Act of 2010 gives the FCC au­thor­ity to re­quire closed cap­tion­ing of on­line videos. In 2012, the FCC en­acted rules that re­quired closed cap­tion­ing of full-length shows and movies that had already aired on TV, but the rules didn’t cov­er short clips.

The new re­quire­ments for clips will be­gin phas­ing in on Jan. 1, 2016, with fi­nal im­ple­ment­a­tion on Ju­ly 1, 2017. The fi­nal stage will re­quire cap­tion­ing of live events, such as news and sports.

In fil­ings to the FCC, some tech and me­dia com­pan­ies em­phas­ized that they already vol­un­tar­ily cap­tion many videos and warned that strin­gent rules could dis­cour­age some sites from up­load­ing videos in the first place.

The agency’s two Re­pub­lic­ans, Ajit Pai and Mi­chael O’Ri­elly, ex­pressed some con­cern with how the rules will af­fect small com­pan­ies and cast con­cur­ring votes.

Pai said he hopes the FCC will be “flex­ible” in en­for­cing the new rules.

“If tech­no­logy does not de­vel­op as quickly as we might like, we should ad­just ac­cord­ingly,” he said.

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