Closed Captioning Rule Changes Coming January 15th

Posted on October 30th, 2014 by

This past February, the FCC adopted some new closed captioning requirements for TV stations, but staggered the effective dates of the new rules.

One rule change will become effective January 15, 2015, so long as the FCC has gotten approval for the information collection. This rule requires stations to “maintain records” of their efforts to monitor the station’s closed captioning and captioning equipment. This record-keeping rule requires that for a minimum of two years, a TV station must maintain “information about the station’s monitoring and maintenance of equipment and signal transmissions to ensure the pass-through and delivery of closed captioning to viewers, and technical equipment are maintained in good working order.” The records have to be submitted to the FCC upon request, but do not have to be placed in the public file.

Another of the new rules will automatically kick in on January 15, 2015. This rule requires TV stations to make “best efforts” in obtaining certifications from each programmer on the station about the quality or existence of closed captioning in their programs. The programmer must certify to at least one of three things – (1) that the program satisfies the new caption quality standards set forth in section 79.1(j)(2) of the new captioning rules, or (2) that in the ordinary course of business, the programmer has adopted and follows the best practices set forth in section 79.1(k)(1) of the new captioning rules, or (3) that the programmer is exempt from the captioning rules under one or more exemptions.

Stations can satisfy their “best efforts” obligation by locating a programmer’s certification on the programmer’s website or other available locations used for the purpose of posting widely available certifications. But if a station can’t find the certification, it has to inform the programmer in writing that the programmer must make the certification widely available within 30 days of receiving the notice. And then, if the programmer does not cooperate, the station has an affirmative obligation to promptly report the programmer to the FCC (the “tattle-tale” component). By following these steps, the station will not be liable for violating the FCC’s captioning quality rules.

Are we having fun yet?