FCC advances with Internet video closed captioning

Despite prolonged wrangling over statutory language, the Federal Communications Commission has moved Internet video closed captioning to enactment. Until now, producers and distributors of closed-captioned video productions - such as DVDs of movies and  TV series - have not been required to place that captioning on streamed versions of the same works. But on July 15, 2012, that will begin to change when the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) begins to take effect.

On January 12, though, the FCC released its report and order (R&O) adopting "rules governing the closed captioning requirements for the owners, providers, and distributors of video programming delivered using Internet protocol," under the CVAA; the R&O also applies to some video equipment as well.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn praised the work, saying that the CVAA is, "one of the most important pieces of legislation for the deaf and hard of hearing community since the passage of the ADA more than two decades ago." But, she noted that although, "we have seen an explosion of revolutionary Internet-based telecommunications and video programming technologies... the tremendous promise of these technologies has remained largely inaccessible to Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing."

Although the technology for placing closed captioning in streaming video has existed for years, the industry has largely resisted doing so, citing costs. On October 8, 2010, President Obama signed the CVAA into law, yet implementation will take nearly two years, and still not be universally applied. The law only applies to material that previously appeared on broadcast and cable television. Movies that weren't broadcast are exempt. "Many activists, though, believe this is just the first step toward captioning of all online video," said one media disability advocate.

It's thanks to organizations like the American Association of People with Disabilities, a Speed Matters partner, that this process has come this far. Speed Matters strongly supports full closed captioning.

Report and Order, Closed Captioning of Internet Protocol-Delivered Video Programming (FCC report (Jan. 12, 2012)

Statement Of FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn (Jan. 12, 2012)

American Association of People with Disabilities