Caption Requirements for Public, Education and Government Channels

Posted by Kate Armelie on Jul 2, 2018 4:06:11 PM

For many PEG channels it can often be confusing to understand what their closed captioning obligations are. The FCC and the ADA have regulations for closed captioning, each with their own set of standards. This is the first of a three part series focusing on what the regulations for closed captioning are for PEG channels and the steps taken to avoid fines and provide accessible content for all viewers.

First, what are Public, Educational, and Governmental Access channels ("PEG channels")?

PEG channels are local public, educational and government channels that typically air community driven content, public service meetings and local board meetings. These channels are developed by individuals and non-profit organizations to expand the value of television as a community resource.

Wait a second, aren’t PEG channels exempt from providing closed captions?

Not necessarily. Nearly every PEG operation can improve their content accessibility in some way. Every operation should be aware of the compliance regulations of the FCC, the Communications Act, the ADA compliance regulations and possibly the Rehabilitation Act if the PEG operation is receiving federal funding. We’ll focus on the FCC and Communications Act in this post.

Ok, so what does the FCC say?

The FCC has several mandates regarding closed captioning. One to know is that video programming distributors are required to provide closed captioning on 100% of any new nonexempt English and Spanish video programming, and that closed captioning is required on 75% of pre-rule programming (think reruns) on each channel each calendar quarter.

If the PEG channel is not considered exempt, they are subject to these rules.

How do I know if my channel is exempt?

There are two main reasons why channels can be exempt from providing closed captions. The first is self-implementing exemption, which has to do with the type of programming distributed and we’ll get to that in a second. The second reason for exemption, (and the one that will mainly influence the exemption status of most PEG channels) is the creation of economic burden from captioning. The FCC states that closed captioning is not required if the cost of captioning would exceed 2% of gross revenues, and/or any channel producing revenues below $3 million annually is exempt from the closed captioning requirements for the Communications Act.

As stated earlier, PEG channels are smaller channels developed and organized by communities and nonprofits and there are no PEG channels that produce a revenue of $3 million. So according to this all PEG channels are exempt from the FCC closed captioning laws.

That’s for broadcast TV, what about web streaming?

Web streaming is a fantastic way to expand the viewership of any channels content. Many cable operators are currently streaming PEG channels and many cities stream live and recorded PEG programming.

In 2010, the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, or the CVAA, was updated to modernize the regulations and requirements of broadcast to keep up with quickly developing technology. Title Ⅱ of this act lays out the groundwork to make it easier for people with disabilities to access video programming on the TV and internet. An important development of this Act is that if programming is closed captioned on television, then it must be closed captioned when it is streamed online.

So, if the PEG channels are not providing closed captions on television, then they aren’t required to when streaming. However, any PEG programming that is shown on television with captions, must have captions when it is streamed online.

Great, now how do I confirm an exempt status with the FCC?

In order to gain exemption from the FCC’s closed captioning requirements, one of two categories must be met, self-implementing exemption and economically burdensome exemption.

Self-implementing exemption includes programming shown from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., public service announcements shorter than 10 minutes (and not paid for by federal funding), programming that is primarily text-based, and locally produced non-news programming with no repeat value.

To file for exemption under the pretext of closed captioning being economically burdensome a petition is required to prove that compliance would create an economic burden on the programmer. There are four factors the FCC considers when determining if captions would be economically burdensome.

  1. The nature and cost of the closed captions for the programmer.
  2. The impact on the operation of the provider or program owner.
  3. The financial resources of the provider or program owner.
  4. The type of operations of the provider or program owner.

A petition can also include any additional factors that would be relevant to the exemption decision.

As of February 19, 2016 the FCC implemented the Second Report and Order. Within this a new rule was implemented that requires all video programmers to self report compliance or exemptions to the FCC’s closed captioning rules on a yearly basis, starting July 2016.

So what is my status as a PEG channel?

Under the FCC and Communications Act, PEG channels are exempt primarily due to the economic burden that providing closed captions would cause. A petition is required to be filed with the FCC to claim economic burden.

However, it is still recommended that PEG channels determine the options they have to provide effective communication and information to disabled persons, i.e. closed captioning. There are different methods to providing closed captioning such as a transcription service or speech recognition software like Link Electronics automatic captioning solutions. The important thing is to provide for the needs of the community to the maximum extent possible.

Up Next...

The next post in this series will dive into the requirements of the ADA and how those requirements can sometimes be less clear than the requirements of the FCC for PEG channels.

Article Series

  1. Caption Requirements for Public, Education and Government Channels (this post)
  2. ADA Compliance for Public, Educational and Government Access Channels
  3. Is Your PEG Channel Exempt From FCC and ADA Compliance?

For more info on general FCC Closed Captioning rules visit:
https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/closed-captioning-television

For more information on the FCC’s exemption requirements visit:
https://www.fcc.gov/economically-burdensome-exemption-closed-captioning-requirements

For more info on the FCC self implementing exemption from closed captioning rules visit:
https://www.fcc.gov/general/self-implementing-exemptions-closed-captioning-rules

For more information on Automatic Captioning Solutions visit:
Link Electronics - Automatic Closed Captioning

A huge thank you to Mike Bradley from Bradley Berkland Hagen & Herbst, LLC for the inspiration and much of the information on this topic!

Topics: FCC, closed captions, captions, PEG, Public Television, Closed Caption Requirements

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