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[Fwd: Closed Captioning Fact Sheet]

From: David Poehlman <poehlman@clark.net>
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 21:22:21 -0500
Message-ID: <370186DD.55E6C0A2@clark.net>
To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
by extenuation?

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Closed Captioning Fact Sheet
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 15:50:13 -0500
From: Pam Gregory <PGREGORY@fcc.gov>
Reply-To: telecom-l@trace.wisc.edu
<remainder of header snipped>
Many of you have sent E-mails to FCC Chairman Kennard requesting fact
sheets on the amended closed captioning rules.  In response, we have
developed a new fact sheet, which we will also post on the FCC's
Disabilities Issues Task Force web page, http://www.fcc.gov/dtf/. 
Duplication and sharing of this document is encouraged.

For your convenience, the contents of the Fact Sheet are provided
electronically below. 


March 1999

Closed Captioning of Video Programming

As directed by Congress in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the
Federal Communications Commission (Commission or FCC) has adopted
rules requiring closed captioning of most, though not all, television
programming.  The rules became effective January 1, 1998.  This fact
sheet provides general answers to questions that may arise about the
implementation of the rules.  The rules can be found at the
Commission's web site, www.fcc.gov/dtf/caption.html.  For further
information, please contact the Commission toll-free at 1-888-CALL-FCC
(1-888-225-5322); TTY 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); or (202)
418-7096; TTY (202) 418-7172.

Q:	What is closed captioning?

A:	Closed captioning is an assistive technology designed to provide
access to television for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing.  It
is similar to subtitles in that it displays the audio portion of a
television signal as printed words on the television screen.  Unlike
subtitles, however, closed captioning is hidden as encoded data
transmitted within the television signal, and provides information
about background noise and sound effects.  A viewer wishing to see
closed captions must use a set-top decoder or a television with
built-in decoder circuitry.  Since July 1993, all television sets with
screens thirteen inches or larger have had built-in decoder circuitry.

Q:	Who is required to provide closed captions under the new rules?

A: 	The rules require people or companies that distribute television
programs directly to home viewers ("video program distributors") to
make sure that those programs are captioned.  Video program
distributors include local broadcast television stations, satellite
television services (such as DirecTV, Primestar, and the Dish
Network), local cable television operators, and other companies that
distribute video programming directly to the home.  In some
situations, video program providers will be responsible for captioning
programs.  A video program provider could be a television program
network (for example, ABC, NBC, UPN, Lifetime, A&E) or other company
that makes a particular television program.   

Q:	When will I be able to see more closed captioned programming?

A:	The rules create transition periods during which the amount of
closed captioned programming will gradually increase.  Under the
rules, there are two categories of programming: new programming and
pre-rule programming.  Certain exemptions from the captioning
requirements apply to both categories of programming.

*	New Programming:  Programs first shown on or after January 1, 1998,
are considered "new" programming.  Under the rules, 100% of new,
non-exempt programs must be captioned over an eight year period. 
Compliance with the captioning requirements will be determined on a
quarterly basis.  In other words, the Commission will look at how much
captioning is provided in each of the four calendar quarters: 
January-March; April-June; July-September; and October-December.

	The rules set up the following schedule for new programs:  In 2000
and 2001, video program distributors must provide at least 450 hours
of captioned new programs per channel during each calendar quarter. 
In 2002 and 2003, that number will increase to 900 hours per channel,
per calendar quarter.  In 2004 and 2005, that number will increase to
an average of 1,350 hours per channel, per calendar quarter.  As of
January 1, 2006, 100% of the distributor's new, nonexempt programs
must be provided with captions.  

*	Pre-rule Programming:  Programs first shown before January 1, 1998,
are considered "pre-rule" programming.  Under the rules, 75% of
pre-rule, non-exempt programs must be captioned over a ten year

	The rules set up the following schedule for pre-rule programming:  At
least 30% of a channel's pre-rule programming during each calendar
quarter must be captioned beginning on January 1, 2003.  Beginning
January 1, 2008, distributors must provide captions for 75% of the
pre-rule, non-exempt programs they distribute on each channel during
each calendar quarter.

Q:	Do the rules require all television programs to be closed

A:	No.  As noted above, the rules provide certain exemptions from the
captioning requirements.  First, the rules exempt all video program
providers who have revenues of less than $3,000,000 per year.  This
exemption is based on the conclusion that it would be economically
burdensome for some programmers or providers to offer captioning.  In
addition, program providers are permitted to limit their spending on
captioning to 2% of their annual gross revenues.  

	The following specific types of programs do not have to be closed

	*	Programs which are in a language other than English or Spanish
	*	Programs or portions of programs for which the audio content is
displayed visually (for example, program schedule channels or
community bulletin boards)
	*	Programs that consist mainly of non-vocal music (for example, a
televised symphony or ballet performance)
	*	Public service announcements, promotional announcements, and
interstitial programs (i.e., brief programs used as a bridge between
two longer programs) that are no more than ten minutes long. 
(However, PSAs of any length which are federally funded or produced
must be captioned under Title IV of the Americans With Disabilities
	*	Programs transmitted by the instructional television fixed service
	*	Instructional programming that is locally produced by public
television stations for use in grades K-12 and post secondary
schools.  (This is intended to cover programming that is narrowly
distributed to individual educational institutions, and is similar to
the exemption for ITFS programming.)
	*	Programs shown on new networks for the first four years of the
network's operation 
	*	Programs which are shown between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. local time
	*	Locally produced and distributed non-news programming with no
repeat value (e.g, parades and school sports)
	*	Commercials which are no more than five minutes long

	In addition, a video program provider or distributor may file a
written request with the FCC for an individual undue burden exemption
from the captioning rules, if supplying captions would cause the
provider or distributor significant difficulty or expense under its
particular circumstances.  

Q:	Will these types of programs always be exempt, or will they be
required to be captioned in the future?

A:	The FCC plans to review the program exemptions at a later date to
determine whether any changes are necessary or appropriate.   

Q:	Will I see fewer captioned programs in the early part of the
transition period than I currently see?

A:	No.  The rules require video program distributors to continue to
provide captioned programming at substantially the same level as the
average level they provided during the first six months of 1997, even
it that amount of captioning is more than the minimum number of hours
required by the rules.  

Q:	Once a program appears on television with captions, will it always
be shown with captions?

A:	In some cases, but not always.  Repeats of captioned programs must
be shown with the captions intact only if the program has not been
edited before it is repeated.  Editing a captioned program can destroy
the captions, and captioned programs which are edited before re-airing
often need to have the captions reformatted.  The FCC encourages
providers to reformat existing captions where possible but, because
there is some expense and difficulty associated with reformatting in
some cases, and the Commission decided to give distributors
considerable discretion in deciding which programs to caption during
the transition periods, the rules do not presently require providers
to reformat captions.  The FCC plans to review this decision in the

Q:	Will the video tapes or video games that I rent or buy be closed

A:	The closed captioning rules only apply to television programs which
are distributed directly to viewers' homes.  The rules do not require
video tapes, laser disks, digital video disks (DVDs) or video game
cartridges to be closed captioned. 

Q:	Will captions have to meet accuracy requirements, such as having
only so many spelling errors per program?

A:	At present, the rules do not require that captions meet any
particular quality or accuracy standards.  The FCC concluded that
program providers have incentives to offer high quality captions, in
keeping with the overall quality of the programs they offer.  The FCC
also concluded that it would be difficult to develop and monitor
quality standards at this time.  However, viewers may let video
providers know whether they are satisfied with the captions through
purchases of advertised products, subscriptions to program services,
or contacts with providers concerning the programs.  

Q:	While I'm watching a captioned program, the captions sometimes
disappear during the program, especially during the last few minutes
right before our local news, or when the picture is modified to
provide other information, such as school closings.  Is this

A:	No.  The Commission has received numerous reports of the loss of
captioning during otherwise captioned programs, particularly at the
end of such programming.  In recognition of this problem and viewers'
frustration when captions are lost during a program, the Commission
adopted rules require that video program distributors to transmit the
original closed captions of a captioned program to viewers intact
unless the program is edited and the captions would have to be
reformatted.  Video distributors also are responsible for making sure
that their equipment is working properly to ensure the accurate
transmission of the closed captions.  

	This requirement that video distributors "pass through" to viewers
all captions they receive is intended to ensure that captioned
programs are distributed with captions from beginning to end without
exception.  It also is meant to prevent video distributors from
unintentionally scrambling captions or making them unreadable.  Under
this requirement, you should expect captions throughout a captioned
program.  Any loss of captions prior to the end of a program or
scrambling of captions would be a violation of this rule.  In
addition, when providing other information, such as school closings or
weather warnings, readable captions should continue to be provided.   

Q:	What is "real-time" captioning?

A:	"Real-time" captioning means any methodology that converts the
entire audio portion of a live program to captions.

Q:	What is electronic newsroom captioning?

A:	Electronic newsroom captioning ("ENR") creates captions from a news
script computer or teleprompter and is commonly used for live
newscasts.  Only material that is scripted can be captioned using this
technique.  Therefore, live field reports, breaking news, and sports
and weather updates may not be captioned.  Because of these
limitations, the Commission decided to restrict the use of ENR as a
substitute for real-time captioning.

	The Commission determined that, beginning January 1, 2000, the four
major national broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) and
television stations in the top 25 television markets (as defined by
Nielsen) that are affiliated with these networks will not be permitted
to count ENR captioned programming toward compliance with their
captioning requirements.  Essentially, the top 25 television markets
are the largest cities and their surrounding areas.  Please note that
this list is subject to change, particularly if the city is towards
the bottom of the list.  Therefore, you may wish to contact the local
network affiliate to confirm that the station is within the top 25
market areas.  These markets are: New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA;
Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA;
Boston, MA; Washington, DC; Dallas-Fort Worth, TX; Detroit, MI;
Atlanta, GA; Houston, TX; Seattle-Tacoma, WA; Cleveland, OH;
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN; Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota,!
 FL; Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL; Phoenix, AZ; Denver, CO; Pittsburgh,
PA; Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA; St. Louis, MO; Orlando-Daytona
Beach-Melbourne, FL; Baltimore, MD; Portland, OR; and Indianapolis,

	This ENR rule also applies to national nonbroadcast networks (such as
CNN, HBO and other networks transmitting programs over cable or
through satellite services) serving at least 50% of the total number
of households subscribing to video programming services.  For example,
if the combined national subscribership of all multichannel video
programming providers (e.g., cable, satellite services, wireless
cable) were 80,000,000 households, then any nonbroadcast network that
serves 40,000,000 or more households would not be permitted to count
programs captioned using ENR towards the captioning requirements. 
During the transition period, the Commission expects to consider how
and when this rule should be extended to other video program

Q:	How do I complain if my video program distributor is not meeting
its captioning obligations?

A:	Under the rules, if your video program distributor is not meeting
its captioning obligations, you must first file a written complaint
with the video program distributor (for example, the local television
station, satellite service, or your cable operator) before you may
file any complaint with the Commission.  You may file a complaint with
the Commission if the video distributor fails to respond to your
complaint within the allotted time period or if you are not satisfied
with the response from the video distributor. 

Q:	When must I file my complaint with the video program distributor?

A:	A complaint must be filed with the video program distributor no
later than the end of the calendar quarter after the calendar quarter
in which the violation is believed to have taken place.  For example,
if you believe the local broadcast station did not meet its captioning
requirements in the first calendar quarter of the year
(January-March), your complaint must be filed no later than June 30
(the end of the second calendar quarter).

	The video distributor must respond to your complaint in writing no
later than 45 days after the end of the calendar quarter in which the
alleged violation occurred, or 45 days after receiving the complaint,
whichever is later (see also below).  If you do not receive a response
from the video distributor by the end of this allotted time period or
you are not satisfied with the response you receive, then you may file
a complaint with the Commission.  You must file your written complaint
with the Commission within 30 days after the end of the time period
allotted for the video distributor's response. 

Q:	If I want to send a complaint to the video program distributor, how
do I know who to send it to:	

A:	If a local broadcast station (e.g., a channel you can receive
without subscribing to a video program service, such as WXXX)
allegedly violates the rules, then the station is the video
distributor you should contact.  Its address and telephone number
should be listed in your local telephone directory (e.g., WXXX, 100
Main Street, Anytown, CA, 123-555-0943)  If you subscribe to a video
programming service (e.g., cable television, wireless cable, a
satellite service, or a local telephone company's video service), then
the owner or operator of that subscription service is the video
distributor responsible for ensuring compliance with our rules for
program services other than your local broadcast stations.  You should
contact that video program distributor at the address given on your
bill (e.g., ABC Cable Company, 250 Maple Avenue, Some City, NY
10001).  For assistance, you can contact the Commission toll-free at
1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-53!
22); or (202) 418-7096; TTY (202) 418-7172. 

Q:	Should I contact a network directly if I have a complaint about its

A:	We encourage you to contact broadcast networks (e.g., ABC, CBS,
NBC) or nonbroadcast networks (e.g., CNN, ESPN, HBO) to let them know
your thoughts on their captioning, including the amount, quality, and
accuracy of the captioning.  (However, as noted above, under the
Commission's rules, the network is not responsible for complying with
the captioning rules and it is not required to respond to your
complaint; it is the distributor of this programming that the
Commission holds responsible.)

Q:	What should I say in my complaint to the video program distributor?

A:	 The Commission's rules require that a complaint to a distributor
must state with specificity the alleged Commission rule violated and
must include some evidence of the alleged rule violated.  This means
that your complaint must include enough detail about the problem to
allow the distributor an opportunity to correct the problem or explain
why it believes it has met its obligations under the rules.  You
should also include any evidence that leads you to believe that the
distributor is not following the rules.  In addition, you might
include information about the time and date(s) of the program(s) which
contained the problem.  Since the rules require that any complaint
filed with the Commission include evidence that the complaint was
first sent to the video distributor, you should keep copies of written
correspondence (letters, e-mails, faxes) or records of telephone
conversations about your complaint. 

Q:	What must the distributor do in response to my complaint?

A:	The video distributor must respond to your complaint in writing no
later than 45 days after the end of the calendar quarter in which the
alleged violation occurred, or 45 days after receiving the complaint,
whichever is later.  For example, if a video program distributor
receives a complaint regarding programming aired between January 1 and
March 31 at any time between January 1 and March 31, it would have to
respond by May 15 (May 15 is 45 days after March 31, the end of the
quarter in which the alleged violation occurred).  For a complaint
received after the end of the first quarter, the video distributor
would have 45 days after receipt of the complaint to respond, which
would be a date later than May 15 (for example, July 16 for a
complaint received on June 1). 

	The distributor will not always be responsible for making sure that
programming is captioned.  If you complain to a video distributor
about a program for which it is not responsible, it must either:  (a)
return the complaint to you within seven days of receiving it, along
with the name and address of the person or company to whom you should
complain, or (b) forward the complaint to the appropriate person or
company within seven days of receiving it, and let you know that it
has done so.  For example, as noted above, a broadcast station (e.g.,
WXXX) is responsible for compliance with the captioning rules for
programming it airs regardless of whether you receive that broadcast
station over-the-air or through a subscription service such as cable. 
If you are a cable subscriber and you complain to your cable company
(e.g., ABC Cable) about programming that was shown by a local
broadcast station (e.g., WXXX), the cable operator will respond by
either returning your complaint along!
 with the address of the broadcast station to which it should be sent,
or forwarding your complaint directly to the broadcast station and
informing you that it has done so.

Q:	What if the distributor or the company responsible for captioning
does not correct the problem or does not respond to my complaint?

A:	If the distributor or other responsible person or company does not
respond to your complaint within the time permitted under the rules,
or if you are dissatisfied with the response, you may file a written
complaint with the FCC, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C.,
20554.  You must file your complaint with the Commission within 30
days after the time allotted for the video program distributor to
respond to your complaint has ended.  Your complaint to the Commission
must include a statement that a written complaint and supporting
evidence was first sent to the person or company responsible for
captioning the program.  Your complaint also should include a copy of
any response you received from that person or company.  If you did not
receive any response at all, you should indicate this in your
complaint to the FCC.  You also must: (1) send a copy of the complaint
you send to the FCC, including all supporting documentation submitted
with your complaint, to the video progra!
m distributor or other person or company responsible for captioning
the program; and (2)*submit a statement to the FCC that you have sent
these copies to the video distributor or responsible company.  

Q:	How does the FCC resolve the complaint after I have filed?

A:	After you file your complaint with the FCC, the video distributor
must respond to the FCC regarding your complaint within 15 days of
receiving it, and must send a copy of its response to you.  Based on
the information in the complaint and the response and any other
information the FCC may request from either party, the FCC will make
its decision and take appropriate action.
Received on Tuesday, 30 March 1999 21:22:25 UTC

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