On Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, two important new closed captioning rules were published in the Federal Register and went into effect. The new rules require immediate attention by video programming distributors — including broadcast television stations — to ensure that they respond promptly to viewer complaints regarding closed captioning issues, and to ensure that they timely file contact information with the FCC by March 22, 2010

As detailed in Davis Wright Tremaine’s November 2008 advisory and subsequent January 2009 advisory update, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Declaratory Ruling and Order in late 2008 that, among other things, imposed new requirements on video programming distributors with respect to fielding inquiries and complaints about closed captioning.  While the implementation of some aspects of those rules was delayed initially, with Friday’s publication in the Federal Register, two of those are now in effect.  The new rules, and the obligations they impose on video programming distributors, are discussed below. 


Continue Reading Closed Captioning Update: New Complaint Rules Now Effective; Contact Information Due by March 22, 2010

The FCC’s has published in the Federal Register certain aspects of its November decision on closed captioning – most notably the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking if a broadcaster’s multicast streams should each count as a separate "channel" potentially exempt from closed captioning requirements if that channel doesn’t bring in more than $3 million

The Public and Broadcasting is a document first written by the FCC in the 1970s to tell the public about how the FCC regulates broadcast stations, and to tell the public how they can get involved in the regulatory process.  Broadcasters must maintain a copy of the manual in their public file, and make it available to members of the public who request it.  For years, the manual was grossly out of date, finally being updated a few years ago.  Today, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing that they have once again updated The Public and Broadcasting, and that all stations need to place the new version in their public file.  The new version, with a new subtitle "How to Get the Most Service from Your Local Station" can be found here.  Stations should print that document, and place it in their public file.

The manual is updated, and sets out most of the programming and other operational rules that would be of interest to the public.  The manual seems to be objective – pointing out that most programming decisions are left to the broadcast licensee to avoid violating the Freedom of Speech rights of the broadcaster. 


Continue Reading FCC Releases New Version of the Public and Broadcasting and Sets Up Help Desk for Broadcast Complaints