The Commission has set the date for comments on it Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on certain aspects of the captioning of Online Video clips.  We recently summarized the FCC action setting up compliance deadlines for the captioning of video clips taken from programs that are shown on TV with captions, and then repurposed for online use.  While the Commission has already established the obligations for TV broadcasters to take these clips and caption them when shown online on the broadcaster’s own website or through its own app, there are still certain areas to which the rules have not yet been extended on which comments are sought. The Comment deadline is October 6, with replies due November 3 (see the full text of the FCC decision here, and the Federal Register publication of the comment dates here).  What is being considered?

Basically, questions are asked about three areas. The first is whether to require that clips be captioned when they are shown on third-party websites.  The current rules require that full programs shown on TV and repurposed to the Internet be captioned when shown on third-party sites, but the new rules for clips were not immediately extended that far, as the Commission seeks comments on the costs and difficulties that might exist in such an extension.

The FNPRM also seeks comments on what the Commission is calling a “mash-up” – an online video that contains content that was shown on the air with captions, but also contains content that is unique to the Internet.  While “montages” – collections of clips that were captioned on the air that are put together in one video – are covered by the already-adopted rules, the mash-up concept provides new challenges to the FCC’s regulatory authority, as they seemingly don’t have the authority to mandate captioning of video that was not previously shown on TV.  So they ask for comments on what part, if any, of these mash-ups should be made subject to the rules.

Advance clips – essentially promos and teasers for a program to be broadcast in the future – also present a unique captioning issue on which the FCC seeks comments.  These videos may contain clips of programs that will be captioned when aired on TV, but they are made available online before the television program in which they will appear has been aired.  The Commission asks whether captioning should be required for such clips and when – e.g. should the captioning only be required after the program from which the clip is lifted is shown on the air.  Seemingly, these advance clips will also raise the mash-up issue, as the promo or teaser may also contain information that will never be shown on the air.

Finally, the Commission asks for comments on technology – and whether the grace period given for captioning live and near live programming should be decreased or eliminated over time.  There was much debate over that issue at the Commission meeting, as the Republican Commissioners noted that the technology for easily captioning online video clips of programming may not now exist – even though the Commission has already adopted dates by which broadcasters must be captioning clips of live or near live programming (though with several hours grace period before the captioned clips must be available online).  Thus, the Commission may be asking whether to start to phase out a grace period based on technology that does not even exist for allowing the broadcaster to meet the grace period itself.

These all are issues that may make more difficult the life of the TV broadcaster trying to expand the reach of their programming by putting it online.  If you have opinions on these proposals of the FCC, make sure that you file comments on the dates set out above.