Should the compliance burden for television closed captioning shift to video programmers rather than broadcasters and MVPDs?  The FCC has put this question and several others on the table as part of its Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) on closed captioning published in the Federal Register today.  The FCC issued the FNPRM on February 25 as part of a Report and Order and Declaratory Ruling that mandated new captioning quality standards, adopted Enhanced Electronic Newsroom Technique rules, and codified equipment monitoring, maintenance, and recordkeeping obligations.

Notably, the Report and Order and Declaratory Ruling item was not published with the FNRPM, so the effective date of the Enhanced Electronic Newsroom Technique rules remains unknown until additional publication in the Federal Register.

Comments addressing compliance responsibility will be due April 28, 2014, and replies will be due May 27, 2014.

The FNPRM also seeks comment on a host of other changes to its closed captioning rules, including ending numerous automatic exemptions, such as the exemption for “new networks,” which gives a four-year reprieve from closed captioning for newly-launched networks and the exemption for channels earning less than $3 million. Interestingly, while the Commission questions whether it should to do away with this exemption in the FNPRM, the Declaratory Ruling confirms the $3 million exemption currently applies to broadcast multicast streams.

Comments on the other proposed changes are due June 25, 2014, and reply comments are due July 25, 2014.

Other issues teed up by the FNRPM are:

  • whether to apply the new ENT requirements to non-broadcast networks;
  • whether to adopt best practices for resolution of consumer complaints;
  • whether to require notices for captioning outages;
  • technical solutions for improving captioning synchronicity and completeness;
  • improving the quality of captioning for near-live programming;
  • error correction for rebroadcasts of live and near-live programming;
  • captioning of 3D TV and Ultra HDTV programming;
  • whether to require use of the FCC’s web form for submitting contact information;
  • whether to require VPDs receiving a complaint for programming over which it does not exercise control to notify the complainant of the correct responsible party;
  • current practices for formatting of closed captions; and
  • possible problems with on-screen visual changes obstructing captions.

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