FCC Sheds Light on Closed Captioning Rules

The FCC recently released a public notice giving TV broadcasters some guidelines on how to comply with its captioning of emergency information rules outlined in August.

The Aug. 7 notice was a reminder to broadcasters that as of January 2006, distributors were required to close caption all new nonexempt programming, including breaking news and emergency alerts.

The commission said that although distributors are required to meet the closed-caption standards, it recognizes that emergency information is available on short notice and may be difficult to present 100 percent of its new nonexempt programming with captions. However, the station must make its "best efforts to ensure that coverage of an emergency is captioned as soon as possible."

The Dec. 29 notice provides some examples of ways video programming distributors can take to obtain closed-captioning resources:

• secure closed-captioning service contracts ahead of time that can provide closed captioning on short notice;
• make it the station's priority to contact the captioning services immediately;
• post visible reminders around the newsroom to contact closed-captioning services and include contact information;
• have the captioning service on speed-dial in the newsroom;
• distribute a "visual presentation policy" and train employees regarding these policies.

The FCC said it would take into consideration the magnitude of the emergency situation, including times when severe weather takes out telephone lines that are used to issue remote captioning. During situations like this, it would consider a longer period of time without closed captioning "reasonable."

When close-captioning services are not provided distributors must make the emergency information available for people with hearing disabilities by using visuals including open captioning, crawls, charts, or even white boards.