Under the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (commonly called the CVAA), the FCC has adopted many rules designed to enhance accessibility to broadcast communications, particularly those provided by television broadcasters.  In a recent Public Notice, the FCC asked for comments as to how the implementation of the CVAA has worked in the decade that it has been in effect, and what changes (if any) need to be made to reflect current technologies.  The FCC this week announced an extension of the comment dates.  Comments are now due on June 7, 2021 with replies due by July 6.

The adoption of the CVAA led to the FCC adopting many different rules that are designed to enhance accessibility to television programming.  These rules include the requirements for Audio Description of video programming (formerly referred to as “video description”) where the FCC required that larger market network TV stations pass through a certain amount of programming with a secondary audio channel that describes the action on the screen (see our article here on a recent expansion of that requirement).  The FCC also adopted requirements for the captioning of video programming that TV broadcasters post on the Internet that was initially broadcast over the air, with captioning, and then repurposed for online use (see our articles here, here and here).  Rules requiring TV stations to use their secondary audio channels (their “SAP” channels often used for second-language audio for TV programs) to broadcast audio versions of alerts provided by a TV station during non-news programming have also been adopted pursuant to the CVAA (see our articles here and here, here on this requirement).  And, while mandated prior to the CVAA, closed captioning requirements for TV stations and other video programmers have been reviewed in light of CVAA concepts, including the adoption of closed captioning quality standards such as accuracy and delay (see for instance, our articles here, here and here).

Given the broad reach of these obligations, broadcasters should be tracking the FCC’s actions in this proceeding and watching the comments filed to assess how their operations may be impacted by any suggested changes to these rules.  With the extended comment period, broadcasters also have the opportunity to suggest changes of their own to make these rules operate more effectively.