Closed-Captioning Closes In on Independent Producers

WASHINGTON: The Federal Communications Commission is clearing out its closed-captioning exemption file. 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. The commission revised closed-captioning rules last year to include TV shows retransmitted on the Internet. It also changed the qualification for hardship exemptions, which affected 590 programmers granted exemptions under rules established in 2006.

The FCC appears to be sweeping the file. Some of those notified no longer actively program on air or cable. The National Television Education Foundation in Memphis, Tenn., received a notice for it’s program, “We Are Tomorrow... R-U?” That show’s final episode aired in 2009, according to The Commercial Appeal.Another, “A Rood Awakening,” produced by A Rood Awakening International in Fort Mill, S.C., is not online only, according to the program’s website.

Others are very much on TV schedules, including “JBTV,” airing on NBC affiliate multicast subchannels in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and other markets. “JBTV” producers have until July 5, 2012 to comply with the commission’s request or commence closed captioning by the next day.

Petitioners must provide the following to qualify for an exemption from closed-captioning rules:
profit-and-loss or bank statements demonstrating financial hardship.
information about the cost of captioning the programming in question.
verification that petitioners sought assistance to provide closed captioning and were rejected.
verification that sponsorships and other sources were sought to support closed captioning
information on the type of operation and the impact that providing closed captioning would have on the operation, i.e., if it would have cut back production.

Many of the original petitioners were religious programmers. Harvest Life Changes Church in Woodbridge, Va., was among the current round of programmers receiving a notice. The church produces the “Heart to Heart Broadcast,” carried by several program distributors in the suburban Washington, D.C. area. The FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau asked the church to affirm the documentation in its pending petition, provide updated information, or commence closed captioning on July 6, 2012. Most of the notices appear to require documentation by at least early July.

~ Deborah D. McAdams