As I have noted on several occasions in the past, the FCC requires that certain video programming delivered online by television stations be captioned if that programming previously aired on television with captions (for a quick refresher you can view my posts “FCC Seeks Greater Clarity on IP Video Captioning Rules”, “Second Online Captioning Deadline Arrives March 30”, and “First Online Video Closed Captioning Deadline Is Here”).
All video programming that appeared on television with captions after April 30, 2012, is considered “covered Internet Protocol (IP) video” and is required to be captioned when shown online. In January of 2012, the FCC released an Order exempting “video clips” and outtakes while requiring that television stations display captioning for prerecorded full-length programming delivered via IP if the programming had aired on television with captions. Where a captioned TV program is streamed on the Internet in segments, it must be captioned if substantial portions of the entire program are shown via those segments.
However, in the latest turn, the FCC is now asking for updated information regarding whether it should remove the “video clip” exemption. It is seeking public comment on the issue, with comments due on January 27, 2014, and reply comments due on February 26, 2014. The FCC’s Public Notice asks commenters to answer a number of questions regarding the current state of captioning of IP-delivered video clips, including:
- What portion of IP-delivered video clips generally, and of IP-delivered news clips specifically, are captioned?
- Has the availability of captioned versions of such clips been increasing?
- What is the quality of the captioning on IP-delivered video clips?
- Should the FCC require captioning of IP-delivered video clips?
- How are the positions of commenters consistent with the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), its legislative history, and the intent of Congress to provide video programming access to people with disabilities?
- What are the potential costs and benefits of requiring captioning of IP-delivered video clips?
- How have consumers been affected by the absence of closed captioning on IP-delivered video clips, particularly news clips?
- To the extent that some entities have already captioned these clips, what technical challenges, if any, had to be addressed?
How does the captioning of IP-delivered video clips differ from the captioning of full-length IP-delivered video programming?
- What are the differences between captioning live or near-live IP-delivered video clips, such as news clips, and prerecorded IP-delivered video clips?
- If the FCC imposes closed captioning obligations on IP-delivered video clips, should the requirements apply to all video clips, or only to a subset of such clips?
- If only to a subset, what subsets would be most appropriate and what would be the rationale for excluding others?
The FCC also asks for comment on any additional issues relevant to its determination of whether closed captioning of IP-delivered video clips should be required.
TV stations have been making greater use of their websites over the last few years to deliver video programming, and that use is only likely to increase in the years ahead as TV stations expand their use of mobile applications to reach viewers. As a result, the FCC’s new proceeding raises important issues that will affect stations’ video streaming, online marketing, and bottom line. As the saying goes, you’re not entitled to complain about an elected official if you didn’t bother to vote, and broadcasters need to speak up now if they want to avoid having to complain later about any complex or burdensome online captioning requirements that might be adopted in this proceeding.