Broadcasters and MVPDs face numerous FCC deadlines in the upcoming weeks and months related to accessibility and the CALM Act.  Below, we briefly discuss each deadline and then provide a summary table.

Closed Captioning Quality:  On March 16, 2015, new rules regulating the quality of closed captions under four non-technical standards — (1) accuracy, (2) synchronicity, (3) program completeness, and (4) placement — take effect.

The obligation to comply with one or more of these standards depends on the type of televised programming.  Pre-recorded programming, which is programming that is not performed and recorded within 24 hours of airing, must comply with all four standards, notwithstanding de minimis errors.  Live and near-live programming, which is performed and recorded within 24 hours of airing, must be sufficiently accurate, synchronous, complete and appropriately placed to allow a viewer to understand the program.

In addition, by March 16, 2015, broadcasters and MVPDs are required to exercise “best efforts” to obtain certifications of compliance with the new captioning quality rules from their programming providers (network affiliates, syndicated providers, etc.).  If you have not received certifications, please contact us to ensure compliance.

Closed Captioning Monitoring and Maintenance:  To beef up the requirement for VPDs to pass through all programming received with captions to viewers with those captions intact, the FCC will require on March 16, 2015 affirmative monitoring and maintenance of closed captioning equipment.  Specifically, VPDs must maintain records for a minimum of two years that include: (1) information about the VPD’s monitoring and maintenance of equipment and signal transmissions to ensure pass through of closed captions; (2) information about technical equipment checks; (3) information that repairs were promptly undertaken as needed; and (4) information about other activities undertaken to ensure captioning equipment is maintained in good working order.

“Audible Crawl” Requirement: On May 26, 2015, new rules require television broadcast stations and MVPDs who provide emergency information in visual form in non-newscast programming to provide such information aurally on a secondary audio stream.  The new rules continue to mandate an aural tone on the main audio stream, which now will alert individuals to switch to the secondary audio stream.  The new rules will also mandate an aural tone on the secondary audio stream, followed by at least two readings of the aural presentation of the emergency information.  In addition, the Order clarified that emergency information will take priority over all other content on the secondary audio stream.

IP Captioning Archival ContentBeginning March 30, 2015, “archival” IP video programming that airs on television with captions must be captioned online within 30 days.  Archival programming refers to online programming that was already in a video programming distributor or owner’s online library before it was required to have IP captions.  Programming first aired on television between March 30, 2014 and March 29, 2015 has a 45-day window to be captioned.

Video Description Requirements ExpansionOn July 1, 2015, the video description rules expand to cover top-four (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) affiliated networks in the top 60 DMAs.  Currently, the rules apply to top-four affiliated networks in the top 25 DMAs and MVPD systems with more than 50,000 subscribers for the top five national non-broadcast networks they carry.  The rules require: (1) covered stations and MVPDs to utilize a secondary audio stream to provide video description audio content; and (2) all stations and MVPDs to pass through video description from upstream programmers, subject to technical capability exemptions.

CALM Act StandardThe new standard to measure loudness of commercials – ATSC A/85:2013 – takes effect June 4, 2015.


Requirement Deadline
Closed Captioning Quality Standards and Certifications March 16, 2015
Closed Captioning Monitoring and Maintenance March 16, 2015
IP Captioning Archival Content Captioned Within 30 Days March 30, 2015
“Audible Crawl” – Secondary Audio Stream for non-newscast emergency information May 26, 2015
CALM Act standard update June 4, 2015
Video Description rules expand to top 60 DMAs July 1, 2015

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