FCC Seeks Input On State Of Online Clip Captioning

Gathering input before ruling on petition to expand mandate

The FCC's Media Bureau Friday sought comment on the state of closed captioning of IP-delivered video clips online.

"We now invite comment on the current state of captioning of IP-delivered video clips," the bureau said in a notice posted late Friday. "What portion of IP-delivered video clips generally, and IP-delivered news clips specifically, are captioned? Has the availability of captioned versions of such clips been increasing? What is the quality of the captioning on IP-delivered video clips? We ask whether, as a legal and/or policy matter, the Commission should require captioning of IP-delivered video clips."

The captioning mandate applies to broadcast and cable content re-airing on the Web, not to Web-original video.

In implementing the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), the FCC concluded that in applying the mandate to the owners and distributors of IP-delivered video, it would initially apply it only to full-length programming and not to clips. But it also interpreted the statute to mean that Congress left open the question of whether it would eventually also apply to those clips given the "at this time" language relating to the full-length programming mandate. At the time, the commission said it might later decide it was best to require captioning clips, expected the industry to do so as well, and would monitor its progress.

Just last week, CVAA co-authors Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), former chair of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, tried to clear up any confusion. They asked the FCC to close caption online clips, rather than just longer-form video. In a letter to new FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, the pair said they wanted to clarify that their legislative intent had been to do so.

Consumer groups petitioned the FCC to reconsider excluding clips, particularly concerned about news clips. The FCC deferred a decision, saying it would first seek more info on the state of clip captioning.

It has now launched the effort to do that. Comments are due Jan. 27, 2014. Reply comments are due Feb. 26, 2014.