The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) has issued a Public Notice asking interested parties to again weigh in on proposed changes to the closed captioning rules. Comments and reply comments must be filed by November 24 and December 9, respectively.

As you may recall, in 2005 and 2008, the FCC issued Notices of Proposed Rulemaking suggesting revisions to the closed captioning rules that could have increased captioning obligations and affected video programming distributors' (including television stations) bottom lines. The agency never acted. Now, the Commission says, significant time has elapsed and technology has advanced, therefore it wishes to refresh the record.

Specifically, the FCC is soliciting fresh information about:

  • Whether, for broadcasters that multicast, the $3,000,000/channel revenue threshold for a captioning exemption should apply on a per-stream basis or to the station as a whole, specifically whether each multicast stream should continue to be considered a separate channel for purposes of applying any revenue exemption;
  • Whether the Commission should continue to permit stations in smaller markets to use the Electronic Newsroom Technique to caption local news and other programming (as opposed to requiring real time captioning);
  • Whether the FCC should establish quality standards for non-technical aspects of closed captioning, including accuracy of transcription, spelling, grammar, punctuation and caption placement (the current closed captioning rules contain no such quality requirements), and whether there are enough competent captioners available to meet such a mandate, and what the associated costs would be;
  • Whether different captioning quality standards should apply to live and pre-recorded programming;
  • Whether additional mechanisms and procedures are needed to minimize technical problems and to remedy expeditiously any technical problems that do arise;
  • Whether to establish a specific per violation forfeiture amount for non-compliance with the captioning rules and, if so, what that amount should be;
  • Whether the FCC should require video programming distributors to file closed captioning compliance reports and;
  • Whether the FCC should require parties to file petitions for exemption from closed captioning requirements electronically.