Milestone in America’s fight for television captioning

Error message

Deprecated function: Array and string offset access syntax with curly braces is deprecated in include_once() (line 14 of /home/mediacc/public_html/themes/engines/phptemplate/phptemplate.engine).
Friday, 21 October 2011 09:45am

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has overturned a major category of “automatic” exemptions from its television captioning regulations. The decision has been celebrated by the access community as a milestone in the drive to increase captioning across the United States.

Known as “Anglers Order”, this was an exemption application filed in 2005 for The Christian Angler Outdoors Television Show.  The argument put forward by the producers of the show was that they were a not-for-profit organisation, the program was produced for little or no cost and no revenue was derived from it.  On that basis they claimed that having to comply with the broadcast regulations and caption the program meant that it was likely that the program would cease production.  The FCC granted an exemption on this basis and then several hundred similar exemptions were filed in a short time frame relying on the Anglers Order exemption. 

This blanket exemption was challenged by consumer organisations on the grounds that the broadcasting regulations required a proper test and examination of each exemption on a case-by-case basis and that the FCC had effectively created a new category of exemption which was based around a program being made by a not-for-profit, at low cost and with no revenue.  Importantly, the exemption was such that the program makers effectively only had to assert that was the case, whereas the regulations required proof of undue economic burden.

On 20 October 2011 the FCC issued a notice overturning this order and confirming that programs would have to individually apply and show that captioning would be economically burdensome before being considered for an exemption.  This follows the general approach under the 21st Century Video Accessibility Act and is now open for public comment.

The Coalition of Accessible Technologies has commended the FCC for “having the courage to reverse a bad order and that will further pave the way to ensuring more ubiquitous captioning in the future.”

The United States’ access policies are explained in detail in our Research and Policy section.

Top of page