FCC Won't Require Video Captioning of Internet Clips: Sources

But Would Strongly Encourage Them to Do So, Particularly with News Clips

The FCC won't require programmers to close-caption video clips from TV shows when they play on the Internet, but it will encourage them to do so, and it will delay implementation of the captioning requirement for playback devices like DVD and Blu-Ray players.

That is according to FCC sources familiar with a petition for reconsideration and further notice of proposed rulemaking on implementation of the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) that the commissioners are expected to vote to approve, the sources said. The captioning mandate applies to broadcast and cable content on the Web, not to Web-original video.

Programmers will still have to caption full-length TV programming that they post or stream on the Web, but will not have to caption clips. But according to one source, the item suggests that the FCC would like to start seeing those clips captioned or it might have to revisit the issue.

"If the industry does not start closed captioning for more clips, particularly news clips, we might have to impose the requirement," said the source, characterizing the language in the item. The item makes it official. The FCC will revisit the clip issue in six months to see if the industry has gotten the hint.

The item, which was pushed out the door by former FCC chairman Julius Genachowski before he left last month, would exempt some categories of playback devices -- digital still and video cameras and video baby monitors -- from the rules' captioning mandate. But it would only delay the deadline for DVD and Blu-Ray player captioning compliance pending the resolution of issues teed up in the further notice of proposed rulemaking. That notice "basically asks what the requirements mean for those devices," said one source.

Communications equipment manufacturers had been pushing for more clarity.

The NRPM is essentially a reprieve for those manufacturers from the current Jan. 1, 2013, compliance date since there will have to be time for comment and reply comment on the further NPRM, then for the FCC to review those and make a decision.

"Once we say how it will apply, [equipment manufacturers] are going to need additional time to do that," said one source. "We can't tell them how to comply in December and expect them to have devices Jan. 1." The item also will make the mandate for compliance by playback devices the date of manufacture rather than the date of importation, shipping or sales. That means that noncompliant devices manufactured before the compliance date can still be sold after that date, rather than having stores "sweep the shelves."