FCC sets new rules for online video clips

Regulators are establishing new rules requiring closed captions for online video clips.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously Friday to approve the rules from Chairman Tom Wheeler.

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Wheeler — signing along in American Sign Language — repeated a pledge he made at another closed captioning vote earlier this year.

“This is just the beginning in dealing with our responsibility to make sure that individuals with special needs are in the front of the technology train, not the back of the technology train,” he said.

Friday’s vote sets requirements for online video clips that have aired on television with closed captions, mimicking current requirements for full-length online videos that originally were broadcast with captions on television.

The new requirements apply to video distributors like broadcasters and cable and satellite companies.

Under the 2010 Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, the FCC has the authority to require closed captions for online videos. In 2012, the agency created rules under that law that requires closed captions on full-length online videos that aired with captions on television.

The rules approved Friday set staggered deadlines between 2016 and 2017 for clips taken straight from television, montages containing multiple clips and clips of live and near-live programming, like sports and news.

Tech and video companies pointed to their voluntary work on this issue and expressed concerns about how quickly they would have to put up video clips with captions and how accurate the captions would have to be, especially with content like sports or breaking news.

“What we’re saying today is it is time to challenge technology, those who use technology, to solve problems upfront,” Wheeler said.

While Wheeler had the vocal support of the commission’s two Democrats — Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn, who called for more progress on online accessibility — Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly concurred with the rules but expressed concerns.

Pai said he hopes “that the Commission will be flexible in implementing the rules that we adopt today.” 

“If technology does not develop as quickly as we might like, we should adjust accordingly,” he said.