Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Closed captioning quality standards go into effect 30 April 2014

By Clifford M Harrington and Christine A Reilly

A video program distributor’s (VPD) work is never done. Pursuant to the FCC’s most recent Public Notice on Closed Captioning (CC) compliance, VPDs are required to come into compliance with the first wave of the closed captioning quality standards outlined by the FCC in its 24 February 2014 Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (collectively, the ‘February 2014 Order’) by 30 April 2014. The FCC’s latest effort focuses on further refining its rules while expanding the accuracy and utility of closed captions for the benefit of hard of hearing or deaf viewers.

The February 2014 Order, among other things:

  • Establishes four non-technical quality standards including accuracy, synchronicity, completeness and placement;
  • Outlines how those standards must be applied to live, near-live and pre-recorded programming;
  • Expands the existing compliance obligations for those VPDs still utilising the Electronic Newsroom Technique (ENT) in lieu of live or real-time captioning;
  • Codifies equipment monitoring and maintenance requirements to ensure that VPDs are taking ‘any steps needed to… ensure that captioning included with video programming reaches consumers’ and mandates the retention of records supporting such monitoring and maintenance;
  • Establishes best efforts and ‘best practices’ for purposes of supporting CC goals and compliance;
  • Defines multicast streams as separate channels for purposes of determining whether a VPD qualifies for the $3m (£1.8m) annual gross revenue exemption;
  • Determines that exemption requests must be filed electronically, and
  • Declines to establish fixed penalties for CC violations.

The February 2014 Order also includes a declaratory ruling confirming the CC obligations for mixed language programming.

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