FTC rules video clips should be close-captioned

In 2010, President Obama signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act to great fanfare, including a White House Press Conference appearance by Stevie Wonder. The purpose of the legislation is “to increase the access of persons with disabilities to modern communications.”

Four years later, the FTC is still working on refining its implementation. The latest rules regard short video clips, which the FCC now mandates should be closed captioned, in line with a previous ruling that full-length clips should be. From Chairman Tom Wheeler’s prepared remarks:

“Accessibility of programming must evolve with technology in order for us to maintain our commitment to universal access. When the number of U.S. households viewing TV programming exclusively on the Internet is poised to surpass the number viewing only via antenna, and 77% of Internet users regularly watch video clips online – often to get news, sports, and entertainment programming, it’s time to update our closed captioning rules to reflect these changes.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNmTyVG2xd4]

You may notice that this video of the 2010 press conference is not close-captioned. That’s because the FTC has mandated rolling deadlines, based on the type of video clip. According to their press release:

  • January 1, 2016, will apply to “straight lift” clips, which contain a single excerpt of a captioned television program with the same video and audio that was presented on television.
  • January 1, 2017, will apply to “montages,” which occur when a single file contains multiple straight lift clips.
  • July 1, 2017, will apply to video clips of live and near-live television programming, such as news or sporting events.  Distributors will have a grace period of 12 hours after the associated live video programming was shown on television and eight hours after the associated near-live video programming was shown on television before the clip must be captioned online in order to give distributors flexibility to post time-sensitive clips online without delay.