Closed-Captioning to Be Made More Available

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission are changing regulations to make closed-captioned video more widely available in movie theaters and on the internet.
     The Justice Department proposed changes that would require most movie theaters to provide a certain number of closed captioning and audio-description devices, the latter for people who are blind or have low vision.
     The rule also would explicitly require theaters to show movies with closed captions for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
     “Despite movie theaters’ [ADA] obligation to provide effective communication to patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing or blind or have low vision, these individuals are often shut out from the movie-going experience; this exclusion occurs even though the vast majority of motion pictures released by the major domestic movie studios include closed captioning and to a lesser extent, audio description,” the department wrote. (Brackets added.)
     Currently, the availability of closed captions and audio descriptions varies throughout the country, the department noted.
     “As a result, [people] who are deaf or hard of hearing or blind or have low vision, who represent an ever-increasing proportion of the population, still cannot fully take part in movie-going outings with family or friends, join in social conversations about recent movie releases, or otherwise participate in a meaningful way,” the department wrote.
     If the rule is adopted, theaters that show digital movies would have to show movies with audio descriptions and closed captioning if implementing them is not a “significant burden or expense.”
     For digital theaters, that rule would become effective six months after the final rule is published. The department did not propose a compliance date for theaters that show movies on 35 mm film, but requested public comments on whether it should adopt a delayed compliance date.
     Movie theaters also would have to provide public notice about the availability of audio descriptions and closed captions.
     “This provision is necessary because currently not all movies are produced with captions and audio description, and moviegoers who are deaf or hard of hearing or blind or have low vision, should have the ability to find out which movies are accessible to them,” the department wrote.
     Members of the public have until the end of September to comment on the proposal.
     In a related action, the FCC set out deadlines this week for when certain types of internet video clips must have closed captions.
     In response to a petition by consumer groups, the FCC’s media bureau gathered data on the closed captioning of video clips available on the internet, and found that “a significant percentage of video clips continue to remain inaccessible to consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing.”
     Previously, the statute ensuring that online video programming be closed-captioned only applied to full videos. In the new rule, the commission revised the regulation to include clips.
     Video providers have until the beginning of 2016 to comply with the rule as it relates to single excerpt clips. Providers of montage video clips have until the beginning of 2017 to comply.
     After July 1, 2017, providers of live videos will have 12 hours to add captions to clips they post online, and eight hours for “near-live programming.”
     The FCC also has requested comments on other elements of closed captioning for internet videos.
     Specifically, the commission asks if the rules should apply to video clips that are made up of multiple clips from different sources, called “mash-up” videos, and whether the 12 hour grace period for captioning should eventually be decreased or eliminated.
     The commission also is seeking comments regarding third parties, such as Hulu, that host video clips originally shown on television.
     Comments on the proposal are due by Oct. 6.

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