Legislative Update December 2023: News from Washington DC

by Dave Garb, Legislative Committee Chair

Closed Captioning / ADA Requirements

Where it Currently Stands for PEG

Recently, there has been concern regarding the Closed Captioning of PEG programming, and if the PEG community will be mandated to offer captioning.

Our partners at the Alliance for Community Media have some thoughts to ponder about where things currently stand on this issue.

From Mike Wassenaar, President, ACM:

Your cable channel is probably exempt from the FCC’s Captioning Rules – if revenue for the channel is less than $2M per year per the FCC’s self-implementing exemptions go into effect.  We expect the FCC will implement a registry of video channels and distributors to handle captioning complaints in the coming year.  We’ll keep our partners posted on when this is likely to happen, and what we’ll be required to provide – which will most likely be a contact address and email for questions about captioning.

As a reminder, all local governments and non-profits are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that organizations use the effective communication standard with local residents

( https://www.ada.gov/topics/effective-communication/ )

1. Are you a local government?  You have an ADA requirement separate from the FCC requirement to implement effective communication – or have a publicly responsible official state that it isn’t economically feasible. This means every local government should have a plan to know the cost of implementing and providing captions, even if they don’t implement them.

2. Content that is exempt on cable is exempt online per implementation of the CVAA from 2011.

If video content is online only, there is no exemption (so I suggest online only content have a captioning solution) – This includes VOD delivered via Internet.

The DOJ will state new guidelines regarding accessibility and quality standards for all online content delivered by state and local governments in early 2024.  Governments will have to meet WCAG2 standards https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/docs/   or https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG22/quickref/?versions=2.1.  This specifies online video needs for captions.

The DOJ proposal is for jurisdictions over 50K people. Jurisdictions would have two years to implement these standards, and those under 50K would have three years.  Please note there is no change to the Effective Communication standards suggested.

This is not a final rule – So don’t panic!  It would probably take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, so we don’t have target dates at this time.

The key issue here is to plan when a timeline occurs, and work with vendors for best solutions (and budget accordingly in advance).

The ACM is monitoring this situation and will have materials to consider in 2024 – but talks with equipment vendors have already begun to ensure they meet WCAG2 standards in future products and upgrades. So all… don’t worry about it just yet.  However, as Mike stated, start budgeting now.  We are all doing VOD, it seems like this is something we will have to face head on whether we want to or not.