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CC Cleanup: Device Deadlines Defined, Clips Get Punted

WASHINGTON — The 102-page regulation triggering online closed-captioning has been amended with another 46 pages on device compliance deadlines, outtakes and how the descriptive words get to second-, third-, and screens to infinity and beyond.

The short version is thus: A) Jan. 1, 2014 is the manufacturing deadline by which video players must be able to process closed captioning; B) That deadline is extended for Blu-ray and DVD players; C) DSLRs are exempt; D) Devices can either render or pass through captioning; and E) regulators are punting on video clips.

In an Order released Friday, the Federal Communications Commission addressed three petitions for reconsideration of its January 2012 directive to extend closed-captioning to TV shows redistributed on the Internet. The Consumer Electronics Association asked to have the device rules whacked back a bit, while TVGuardian LLC wanted rendering axed, and advocacy groups for the hard-of-hearing questioned the exemption of video clips. The original order applied to only long-form TV shows redistributed over IP networks.

“Consumers have expressed particular concern about availability of captioned news clips, which tend to be live or near-live,” the Order said.

Given the live/near-live deadline for online captioning was March 30, 2013, the commission reasoned that the process will become more efficient as providers work out the kinks.

“Thus, we expect that these entities voluntarily will caption an increased volume of video clips, particularly news clips,” the Order said.

It directed the FCC’s Media Bureau to issue a Public Notice within six month seeking more information on captioning video clips.

“If the record developed in response to that Public Notice demonstrates that consumers are denied access to critical areas of video programming due to lack of captioning of IP-delivered video clips, we may reconsider our decision on this issue,” the Order said.

The commission went along with the CEA’s assertion that the original order was squishy on the Jan. 1, 2014, device compliance deadline. The language left uncertainty about whether it applied to manufacturing, importation or shipment date. Manufacturing, the commission said. It then dismantled most of the CEA’s remaining disputes.

The FCC ixnayed the CEA’s legal play to exempt devices “designed to” play audiovisual content that were not necessarily intended to do so.

“CEA argues that the statutory phrase ‘designed to’ suggests that the closed-captioning apparatus rules may only reach apparatus that the manufacturer intends to receive, play back, or record video programming,” the commission’s Order states. “We disagree. Nowhere does the statute reference the ‘intent’ underlying the design and manufacture of an apparatus.”

Rather than a sweeping exemption based on manufacturer intent, the commission agreed to “narrow-class waivers” for devices like DSLRs and camcorders, which conceivably could play back a TV show from a memory card.

“The inconvenience of taking these steps in order to view video programming on the camera screen, including the fact that a camera lacks the full panoply of playback controls typically used to view video programming, leads us to conclude that the device’s ability to display video programming is incidental,” the Order stated.

The CEA also tried to get a pass for Blu-ray and DVD players based on language in the presidential directive to develop captioning rules. CEA noted that it described video “transmitted simultaneously with sound.” CEA said “transmitted” meant via wire or radio frequency. The commission replied, non aleae. However, because there is no closed-captioning standard for discs, the commission granted a temporary extension on the Jan. 1, 2014 compliance date for DVD and Blu-Ray players.

TVGuardian LLC, a Roger, Ark. company that makes a composite-video connected “Foul Language Filter,” argued for pass-through versus rendering. In the first case, a source devices such as a set-top simply passes through the closed-caption data to the display. In the second, the source device transmits the information necessary for the display to write the closed captions—the methodology used in HDMI. Given the widespread adoption of HDMI, the commission refused to exclude rendering.

August 7, 2012, “Closed-Caption Mandate Nears
The fuse on the FCC mandate for closed captioning of certain webcast video material is growing short, with Sept. 30, 2012 the deadline for the first phase of implementation.

April 9, 2012,
Closed-Captioning Closes In on Independent Producers
Over the last two weeks, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau sent out more than 230 notices seeking specific information by a date certain that will otherwise trigger the closed-captioning requirement.

Jan. 25, 2012,
Churches File for New Closed-Caption Exemptions
The FCC changed the qualifications for exemptions last October, and notified 590 programmers they would have to file new petitions for exemptions granted under rules established in 2006.