In November 2008, the Commission released a Declaratory Ruling, Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) concerning closed captioning.

The Declaratory Ruling clarifies that (1) the switch to digital television does not exempt Video Program Distributors (VPDs), which includes television stations, cable providers and satellite systems, from closed captioning requirements; (2) VPDs must pass through captioning contained in programs they receive; and (3) VPDs must ensure that captions are viewable on analog sets post-transition. The clarifications specified in the Declaratory Ruling took effect on February 12.

The Order establishes (1) new, consumer-oriented captioning complaint procedures; and (2) new rules requiring VPDs to publicize and file with the FCC contact information for both immediate and general closed captioning complaints. These rules are not yet effective, but once they are, VPDs will have 30 days to comply.

The NPRM seeks comment on whether the existing exemption from the FCC's closed captioning obligations for video programming channels that produce annual gross revenues of less than $3 million during the previous calendar year should be applied to the revenues generated by each multicast digital stream or to a broadcaster's overall operation. Comments in this proceeding were due on February 12, reply comments will be due on February 27, 2009.

A link to the Declaratory Ruling, Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is available here.