The FCC is expected to announce soon that the bulk of its new closed captioning quality rules will take effect on March 16, 2015, rather than January 15, as originally projected. The specific rules at issue, which were originally adopted by the FCC in February 2014, cover video programming distributor (VPD) recordkeeping of maintenance efforts, the VPD certification process, captioning quality standards, and best practices for programmers, captioning vendors, and captioners. These new rules will apply to programming created or newly captioned after the mid-March effective date. The issue of whether liability for non-compliance should rest solely with MVPDs or be shared with programmers is pending consideration in a Further Notice.
The FCC’s February 2014 order stated that, because these rules were subject to approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), they would take effect no earlier than Jan. 15, 2015. In a forthcoming Public Notice, the FCC is expected to announce that the rules will be effective some 60 days thereafter.
The portions of the new captioning quality rules that will be effective in March 2015 contain several obligations for VPDs. The new rules require VPDs to use best efforts to obtain certifications from video programmers that the programmers either comply with the new captioning quality standards for accuracy, synchronicity, completeness placement, and or adhere to the newly adopted best practices for video programmers, or that a specific exemption applies. While VPDs may continue to obtain such certifications directly from programmers, VPDs may also obtain certifications posted by programmers on certain websites or other locations. At this time, non-certifying programmers must be reported to the FCC by the VPD. However, this issue is currently teed up for review in a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released Monday that asks whether video programmers should be required to file contact information and certification of captioning compliance with the FCC directly, and how video programmer contact information and certifications can be made widely available to the public.