October 20, 2011. Five years ago, in October 2006, several leading disability organizations filed for a "Review of the Bureau Order" and a "Petition for Emergency Stay" at the FCC in regard to what was referred to as "the Anglers' Order." Today, the FCC overturned the Angler's Order and the other 300 exemptions to providing captioning on TV that were based on the Anglers' Order.
By way of background -- to illustrate how damaging the Anglers' Order was, the FCC, from 1997, when it first adopted closed captioning rules, until mid-2005 -- received fewer than 75 petitions for undue burden exemptions by providers wanting to be exempted from the closed captioning requirement. It generally handled these on a case-by-case basis as the law required. However, from October 2005 through August 2006, the FCC received over 600 such petitions requesting exemption of TV captioning. In an unexpected and unprecedented move, the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) granted two of these petitions in the Anglers' Order, and during the two weeks that followed, granted an additional 301 petitions in reliance on the reasoning of that Order. The Order became known as "the Anglers' Order" as this was the name of one of the petitioners requesting an exemption. CGB, at that time, appeared to create a new exemption based on "hardship" and reasoned that non-profit status and assertions by petitioners of the non-commercial nature of their programming was sufficient for exemption from captioning of their TV programs.
Disability advocates were outraged at this wholesale granting of exemptions contending that both administrative process had been violated in that there had been no public posting and processing of these exemption requests, and that the law had not been followed as petitioners had been allowed to get away with not proving undue burden for each of their specific petitions.
The leading disability advocacy organizations contesting the Anglers' Order were Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI), the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA), and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), all of whom later in March 2007 became COAT leading affiliates. Additionally, the California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network (DHHCAN) supported the petitions to stop the Anglers' Order.
On October 20, 2011, the FCC overturned that Anglers’ Order and the approximately 300 exemptions that were based on this order. Additionally, in this Order, the FCC opened a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking public comment on proposed amendments to FCC rules to make permanent the provisional interpretation of “economically burdensome,” in ruling on individual closed captioning exemption requests in order to conform FCC rules to section 202 of the 21st Century CVAA.
As a result of these reversal of a previous FCC order, almost 300 of the original petitioners must file a new petition within 90 days, with updated information to support a claim that providing closed captions would be economically burdensome, if they want to continue to be exempt from the closed captioning rules.
COAT commends the FCC for having the courage to reverse a bad order and that will further pave the way to ensuring more ubiquitous captioning in the future.
Read FCC Order here in Word.