COAT is enormously pleased that on Friday January 13, 2012 the FCC released the long-awaited rules for Internet Protocol (IP) TV captioning. This rule is a major component of the 21st CVAA implementation. You can see the FCC Order and accompanying statements by the Commissioners online here. Deeply involved in the rulemaking process were many leading COAT organizations -- TDI, NAD, HLAA, ALDA, DHHCAN, CPADO, CSD, NCAM, AAPD, Trace Research Center, TAP at Gallaudet, and other friends such as IPR at Georgetown and several other individuals. NAD leadership was essential to the process as were allies at the FCC, Karen Peltz Strauss and Rosaline Crawford.
The FCC Order (attached below in Word) says the new rules:
- cover devices that receive and play back video programming, such as TV via smartphones, tablets, personal computers, and television set-top boxes;
- include “integrated software” in covered devices (that is, software installed in the device by the manufacturer before sale or that the manufacturer requires the consumer to install after sale);
- include all recording devices and removable media players;
- exclude professional and commercial equipment from the requirements;
- exempt display-only monitors;
- require apparatus to display or pass-through closed captioning on each of their video outputs;
- do not grant blanket waivers or exempt any device or class of devices;
- modify the existing television receiver closed captioning decoder requirements to conform to new screen size and achievability provisions;
- set a compliance deadline of January 1, 2014 for devices;
- require video programming owners to send required caption files for IP-delivered video programming to video programming distributors and providers along with program files;
- require video programming distributors and providers to enable the rendering or pass through of all required captions to the end user, including through the hardware or software that a distributor or provider makes available for this purpose;
- require video programming owners and video programming distributors and providers to agree upon a mechanism to make available to video programming distributors and providers information on video programming that is subject to the IP closed captioning requirements on an ongoing basis;
- require video programming owners to provide video programming distributors and providers with captions of at least the same quality as the television captions for the same programming;
- require distributors and providers to maintain the quality of the captions provided by the video programming owner.
- set up a schedule of deadlines for differently released programming (e.g., prerecorded programming not edited for Internet distribution, live and near-live programming, prerecorded programming edited for Internet distribution, archival content, programming already in the video programmer distributor's library);
- allow an exemption based on economic burden;
- permit entities to comply with the new requirements by alternate means; and
- adopt a complaints procedure that allows consumers to file complaints about a device even if they have not purchased it (that is, tried to use it).
According to Christian Vogler of Gallaudet University the FCC adopted many of the recommendations of the FCC's Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC). The VPAAC included several COAT organizational representatives and friends and was co-chaired by long-time COAT leader, Larry Goldberg of WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). The recommendations taken up the by FCC included:
- the deadlines recommended by the VPAAC;
- content not edited from showing on TV will be covered in 6 months, live and near-live content in 12 months, and content edited from the TV showing in 18 months;
- all devices that have a video player capable of showing video programming are covered starting in 2014, including mobile devices;
- due to its limited authority over packaged media technology, the FCC is encouraging fixing of the HDMI interface connection problem;
- caption quality requirements with respect to fonts, sizes, etc. were adopted.
Among other VPAAC recommendations, content already on the Internet is covered (that is, it must be captioned) if it is shown on TV again after the deadline, but the providers have a 45-day grace period to add captions. This grace period will decrease to 15 days after four years. The VPAAC had asked for zero days after a set time period. While caption quality on the Internet must be at least as good as on TV, this is not very well-defined.
Vogler points out that video clips are not covered, unless a full-length program is cut up and substantially put on the Internet in its entirety in multiple clips. This may mean that many news sites are not covered, depending on how much of their TV program they put on the web. This is in opposition to the January 10, 2012 letter from Rep. Ed Markey and Sen. Mark Pryor (Congressional sponsors of the 21st CVAA) sent to the FCC recently.
COAT salutes the hard work of the FCC staff involved in this critical component of implementation of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. COAT also honors the often unrecognized individuals and advocates who influenced and toiled on the VPAAC or otherwise worked behind the scenes at the FCC or in other venues to ensure a significantly substantive rule was released. There is little doubt that this new rule is a major critical step forward toward greater accessibility and usability of technology and television for everyone. It is also likely that this rule will have world-wide impact as no other country we are aware of has adopted captioning rules that go this far. Hooray for each and every advocate and friend that worked for this! Truly, this is the fruit of much hard work and will have lasting impact.