Another important milestone to providing accessibility over the Internet has been reached. In October 2010, President Obama signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) into law. Among the things it required was closed captioning for video programming delivered over the Internet. The CVAA did not require every video on the Internet be closed captioned. Instead, it charged the FCC with the responsibility to create industry regulations for accessibility that bridge the gap between video content for television broadcast and Internet distribution.
On Friday, March 30, 2012, the rules set by the FCC were published in the Federal Register, and official deadlines for the implementation of captions were established.
Beginning as early as September 30, 2012, video content that is broadcast on television in the United States with captions will require captions when it is distributed over Internet Protocol (IP).
It is valuable to understand exactly what the law defines as IP delivery. Although the term Internet may imply it speaks of website, the scope is not limited to a web browser or even a personal computer. Instead, a large variety of devices are covered in this definition. Mobile smartphone apps, services like Hulu or Netflix, websites, YouTube, internet-enabled televisions, DVD players and gaming consoles are all examples of IP distribution devices.
The FCC also defines who is responsible for providing the captions. Unlike regulations for television, which puts regulations on the station and cable providers, the regulations for IP delivery put the major responsibility on the program owner. This means that if you own the copyrights to the material, you must provide captions that maintain the same quality of captions that displayed when broadcast on television. The program distributor, in turn, is required to pass them on to the end user without degrading quality.
The new FCC rules, which are a result of the CVAA, will be implemented in four stages beginning on September 30, 2012.
FCC rule 47 C.F.R. § 79.4(b):
Requirements for closed captioning of Internet protocol-delivered video programming. All nonexempt full-length video programming delivered using Internet protocol must be provided with closed captions if the programming is published or exhibited on television in the United States with captions on or after the following dates:
(1) September 30, 2012, for all prerecorded programming that is not edited for Internet distribution, unless it is subject to paragraph (b)(4) below.
(2) March 30, 2013, for all live and near-live programming, unless it is subject to paragraph (b)(4) below.
(3) September 30, 2013, for all prerecorded programming that is edited for Internet distribution, unless it is subject to paragraph (b)(4) below.
(4) All programming that is already in the video programming distributor’s or provider’s library before it is shown on television with captions must be captioned within 45 days after the date it is shown on television with captions on or after March 30, 2014 and before March 30, 2015. Such programming must be captioned within 30 days after the date it is shown on television with captions on or after March 30, 2015 and before March 30, 2016. Such programming must be captioned within 15 days after the date it is shown on television with captions on or after March 30, 2016.
More detailed information is available by reading the Amendment(s) published March 30, 2012, in 77 FR 19515