Last week, the Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) voted unanimously
to extend the provisions of 2012 closed captioning rules to further cover Internet video clips from television shows. The new rules expand provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 in the process. As a method of ensuring equal access to all programming forms to parties that suffer from hearing impairment, the FCC opted to require all Internet TV show clips to have captions in place, starting in January 2016.
"Never has there been a greater opportunity to harness the power of communications technology to improve the lives of Americans living with disabilities," said Chairman Tom Wheeler. "Since I became Chairman, we have acted aggressively to seize these opportunities. Today, we acted again; and we will continue to act in the future."
Currently, closed captioning is only required on full-length television shows that were broadcasted before being posted on the Internet. This means that if a distributor decided to cut up a full length show into smaller clips, captions wouldn't be required under law.
It's an important distinction that the shows that fall under the new requirement are only subject to the new rules if they were aired on television, via cable or satellite distributors, in the United States. Web content providers don't need to worry yet, as the FCC states third party distributors and apps aren't subject to the new rules.
Starting in January 2016, all "straight lift" clips containing an excerpt of a television show that's been captioned will be required to contain captions on the Internet. Montage clips, which is considered to be made up of "multiple straight lift clips," have an additional year before the caption is required. Video clips posted of live and near-live programming need to have captions in place starting July 2017. However, distributors have a 12-hour grace period in which to add the captions after the videos are posted.
One caveat to the new rules is that the FCC won't require a distributor with existing clips in an online library to add captions. The commission considers that doing so would be considered "economically burdensome."
In addition to putting the new rules into place, the FCC is seeking comments on four other points in regards to closed captioning. Public input is sought on the topics of elimination or decreasing the grace period to add captions, whether the rules should apply to mash-up videos, and how to handle advance clips that post to the web before the deadline.