14 November 2011 ~ Comments

FCC Revokes Nearly 300 Captioning Exemptions

Nearly 300 churches recently received a letter from the FCC revealing that their closed captioning exemptions had been revoked.  As sudden as this notice may seemed to its recipients, the action was actually years in the making.

In 1996, Congress created closed captioning requirements for television content.  Between that point and 2005, very few exemptions were given out by the FCC.  In 2006, an order provided a blanket exemption for churches based on the hardship and financial burden of providing closed captions.  As a result, hundreds of exemptions were handed out that year.

The recent reversal from the FCC came after five years of pressure from organizations and advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing communities.  Since the actual cases of the hundreds of exempt churches were never individually considered, advocates claimed that many of the exemptions may have been unwarranted.

The FCC’s recent overturn now means that many of the churches may face a decision of either paying for closed captioning service or potentially going off the air.  As previously discussed here on this blog, there are many positive benefits that result from churches providing closed captions for their television programming. In short, people that are deaf or hard of hearing deserve the same access to television content as everyone else.  Religious programming is no exception.  In fact, many shut ins and elderly people depend on religious programming for teaching and encouragement because they cannot travel to and from church regularly.  Since many people in this group also suffer from hearing problems, closed captioning is of incalculable value to them.

Providing closed captions can certainly be a financial obstacle for many faith-based organizations, but the cost pales in comparison to the cost of air time and other production expenses.  If a ministry chooses to invest in television as a means of spreading its message, it only makes sense that every effort be made to effectively deliver the message to everyone that wants to watch.  After all, if a message is worth being on the air, isn’t the audience worth the extra effort of complete accessibility?

Beyond mandates from the FCC or requirement from television stations, closed captioning matters.  Millions of people depend on it every single day.  The churches at the core of this issue may understandably have difficulty deciding what to do, but it is certainly important to remember that the return on this investment is priceless.

blog comments powered by Disqus