IPR Successfully Opposes Petitions for Closed Captioning Waivers

The Institute for Public Representation scored another victory for deaf and hard of hearing individuals on November 17 when the Federal Communications Commission required a programmer to provide closed captions.

The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau’s order (http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db1117/DA-15-1324A1.pdf) found that Victory Temple Church in Beaumont, Texas had sufficient financial resources to pay for closed captions for its programming. Victory Temple had filed a petition with the FCC seeking a waiver of the closed captioning requirements, arguing that captioning would be economically burdensome.

Under the Communications Act and FCC rules, all programming broadcast on television must be captioned. The rules allow for exemptions to the captioning requirements, however, in various situations or if a programmer claims that captioning would be economically burdensome.

IPR’s client Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. opposed the economically burdensome petition filed by Victory Temple. In February, IPR student Caleb Gilmartin and a staff attorney drafted the opposition to Victory Temple on behalf of TDI (http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=60001029479).  The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Cerebral Palsy and Deaf Organization (CPADO), and Deaf Seniors of American (DSA) supported TDI by signing on to the opposition.

In the order issued on November 17, the FCC largely agreed with IPR’s opposition, and determined that because Victory Temple’s profits exceeded its estimated captioning costs, captioning would not be economically burdensome. As a result, Victory Temple will have to begin captioning its programming by February 16, 2016.

The decision against Victory Temple is the seventh order from the FCC this year finding that it would not be economically burdensome for particular programmers to provide closed captions.  IPR opposed all seven of these petitions on behalf of TDI.

In October, IPR opposed four additional waiver petitions on TDI’s behalf, which are now pending before the Commission.  IPR students Lindsay Buchanan and Cory Dodds, along with staff attorney Drew Simshaw, drafted the oppositions.  Joining TDI by signing onto the oppositions with support were the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Cerebral Palsy and Deaf Organization (CPADO), Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA), Deaf Seniors of America (DSA), American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB), and California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCASDHH).

In addition to opposing closed captioning waiver petitions, students this semester assisted TDI in meetings with FCC commissioners’ staffs addressing how to make user interfaces for closed captioning services more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing consumers.  The Commission addressed many of TDI’s concerns in an order released this month (http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db1120/FCC-15-156A1.pdf).

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