The FCC recently issued a Public Notice reminding television broadcasters of the requirement that, after January 1, 2008, television stations (as well as cable and satellite television systems) must, in each calender quarter, close caption at least 75% of their Pre-Rule Programming. Pre-Rule Programming is that programming first broadcast or exhibited prior to 1998 for analog programming and prior to 2001 for digital programming. New Programming, that produced after those dates, should already be captioned by stations. For details of this requirement (including the different rules that apply to Spanish-language programming), see our firm’s memo on this subject, here. Television station operators should review their programming schedules and contracts to be sure that they will be ready to meet these obligations.
The FCC Public Notice also reminds broadcasters that these requirements are different than the obligations of television broadcasters to provide emergency information visually – not closed captioned, but visible to all. We have written about how serious the FCC takes these emergency obligations in connection with fines that have been issued to broadcasters for providing on-air information orally without any visual presentation for the hearing impaired . See, for instance, our entries, here and here. With hurricane season still in full swing, broadcasters must keep these rules in mind, and remind their on-air staff to remember to comply with these obligations.