Yesterday, the FCC released an Order that reversed a five-year-old decision by its Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (“CGB” or “Bureau”) that had granted certain video programmers “undue burden” exemptions from the FCC’s closed captioning rules. The reversed Bureau decision had changed the criteria for undue burden exemptions and permanently exempted two video programmers from compliance with the closed captioning rules on the basis of the new criteria. Finding that the Bureau’s new criteria deviated from both the statute and FCC precedent, the Commission overturned the decision, reversed 296 subsequent exemptions that had been granted by the Bureau in reliance thereon, and reinstated the original criteria for captioning exemptions. DWT has just released an advisory that provides more detail about the Commission’s decision, which can be found here. In addition, a copy of the Commission’s Order can be found here.

In overturning the undue burden exemptions CGB approved in 2006, the Commission found numerous faults with both the Bureau’s initial decision and its handling of hundreds of subsequent petitions seeking similar exemptions. Although undue burden exemptions were to be reviewed by the Commission on a case-by-case basis after opportunity for public comment and were to consider four factors: (1) the nature and cost of the closed captions for the programming; (2) the impact on the operation of the provider or program owner; (3) the financial resources of the provider or program owner; and (4) the type of operations of the provider or program owner, the Bureau deviated from previous Commission decisions by expanding the scope of the factors considered.  In particular, its decision relied primarily on the non-profit status of programming providers and that the programming was not produced for primarily commercial purposes.  Further, the Bureau found captioning programs would constitute a “significant hardship” and that there was a significant risk that mandating captioning would cause the video programming provider to cancel the programming.
 


Continue Reading FCC Overturns Hundreds of TV Closed Captioning Exemptions and Clarifies “Economically Burdensome” Standard in Connection with Captioning Rules

The end of September marks the close of the Third Quarter of 2011, which brings two quarterly filing obligations for broadcast stations.  The first obligation is that by October 10 all radio and television stations, both commercial and noncommercial, must prepare and place in their public inspection file Quarterly Issues Programs Lists reporting on the important

Just a reminder to broadcast stations in certain states of several upcoming October obligations.  First up, October 3rd is the deadline for Radio Stations in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to file their FCC Form 303-S license renewal applications seeking a renewal of their broadcast licenses.  (See our earlier license renewal advisory here.)  Accordingly

Just a reminder that by October 1, Television stations must once again make their triennial carriage elections.  By that date, TV stations must notify the local cable systems and satellite carriers in their market in writing as to whether the station intends to be carried pursuant to must-carry or a retransmission consent agreement for the

The FCC today announced the public testing of a new TV White Spaces database system.  Starting on September 19, 2011, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology will open a 45-day window to allow the public to try out the TV Band Database developed by one of the potential TV White Spaces database managers.  If approved, the Database will be used by white space

The Commission’s recent Order establishing the rules and time line for low power television stations to convert to DTV has now been published in the Federal Register, meaning that most of the new rules regarding the conversion of low power television stations to digital television are now in effect.  As we wrote about extensively here,on July

Yesterday, the FCC released its Report and Order (available here) reinstating its “video description” rules, which require that certain broadcast stations and nonbroadcast networks provide audio narration of the action depicted in the video portion of the television programming.  The Commission originally adopted such rules back in 2000, but they were subsequently vacated by the D.C. Court of Appeals for lack of sufficient authority.  This past year, Congress rectified that lack of authority by enacting the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), which was signed into law last October. DWT previously discussed the FCC’s rulemaking to reinstate the video description rules back in March (available here), and has now released a further advisory on the newly adopted rules available here.

In a nutshell, the rules require large-market broadcast affiliates of the top four national networks, and cable operators and DBS providers with more than 50,000 subscribers, to provide programming with audio-narrated descriptions of a program’s key visual elements, beginning mid-2012. While the FCC originally proposed to require full compliance by Jan. 1, 2012, the R&O pushes that date back six months, to July 1, 2012.  Highlights  of the reinstated video description rules are as follows:

  • Broadcast affiliates of the top four national networks—ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC—located in the top 25 television markets as determined by Nielsen as of Jan. 1, 2011, must provide 50 hours per calendar quarter of prime-time and/or children’s programming with video descriptions. 
  • The list of the top 25 television markets are those determined by Nielsen as of Jan. 1, 2011. To the extent a station in a top 25 market becomes newly affiliated with a top-four network, it must start providing video description in the same manner as current ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC affiliates in the top 25 markets, beginning no later than three months after finalizing the new affiliation agreement.
  • Going forward, the video description requirements will extend to major network broadcast affiliates in the top 60 markets beginning July 1, 2015. Rankings for the top 60 markets at that time will be based on Nielsen ratings as of Jan. 1, 2015. 


Continue Reading FCC Releases Order Reinstating Television Video Description Rules

Just a reminder to broadcast stations in certain states of several upcoming August 1st obligations.  Specifically, on Aug. 1, radio stations in certain states must commence pre-filing or post-filing announcements (depending on the state in which they are located) in connection with the license renewal cycle.  In addition, Annual EEO Public File Reports must be prepared and placed in