FCC seeks comment on closed captioning implementation for IP-delivered video

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Sept. 19 seeking comment on proposals aimed at providing the deaf and hard of hearing with closed captions on IP-delivered video programming if that content was shown on TV with captions.

The commission issued the NPRM to fulfill a requirement of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 that directs the agency to revise its rules to mandate closed captions on certain IP-delivered programming. The NPRM also seeks comment on devices subject to the act.

The commission has until Jan. 12, 2012, to revise its regulations that will require the provision of closed captioning and any technical standards, protocols and procedures necessary for transmission of closed captions via IP so that devices have the ability to display the captions.

The NPRM asks for comments on changes to FCC rules that would obligate the owners of video programming to send caption files along with program files for IP-delivered video programs to distributors and providers. It also seeks comments on requiring both program distributors and providers to enable rendering or pass through of all required caption files to end users, as well as on requiring the quality of IP-delivered captions to be at least the same quality as captions for TV.

Among the questions the commission seeks input on is the need to specify a particular standard for the interchange format for IP-delivered video programming. The NPRM proposes that the agency refrain from specifying a delivery format for IP-delivered video programming to allow for the “maximum amount of technological innovation.” The NPRM notes that the SMPTE Timed Text standard as an interchange format has been recommended, but said it is not proposing to adopt a specific format because an interchange format is normally specified as part of negotiations between video program owners and distributors and providers of that programming.

Besides seeking comments on whether or not to specify an interchange format, the commission is asking for input on what the standard should be if it is determined such a format is necessary. The NPRM also asks for comment on “the benefits and harms” of specifying an interchange format.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.