On June 7, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a brief Erratum that clarifies the obligations of video programming distributors (including broadcasters and cable operators) to make contact information available to consumers for the receipt and handling of their immediate (during airing of programming) closed captioning concerns.

The original rules, as codified, required video programming distributors to make available only contact information for personnel to address non-immediate (any time after airing) captioning concerns or complaints. The Erratum corrects this oversight.

As detailed in Davis Wright Tremaine’s November 2008 advisory and January 2009 update, late last year, the FCC issued a Declaratory Ruling and Order that imposes significant new requirements on video programming distributors for fielding inquiries concerning closed captioning.

Among other new obligations, video programming distributors must make personnel available to address immediate captioning concerns raised by consumers while they are watching a program, as well as to address written complaints that do not raise such immediate issues, and must designate a telephone number, fax number and e-mail address for purposes of receiving and responding to these closed captioning concerns.

The text of the Declaratory Ruling and Order also required video programming distributors to (1) include contact information for staff capable of responding to and addressing both immediate and non-immediate concerns on their Web sites (if they have a Web site), in telephone directories, and in billing statements (if issued), and (2) to keep this information updated to reflect changes within 10 days for Web sites, by the next billing cycle for billing statements, and by the next publication for directories.

However, the codified rule only extended this requirement to contact information for staff responding to non-immediate complaints. The Erratum amended the rules to clarify that the obligation to publish and update contact information extends to immediate complaints.

The FCC’s captioning contact requirement contains information collection requirements that are subject to approval by the Office of Management and Budget, which has not yet occurred. The FCC will publish a separate document in the Federal Register announcing the effective date for the new and revised information collection requirements.