It can often be confusing for many PEG channels to understand what their closed captioning requirements are. The FCC and the ADA have regulations for closed captioning, each with its own set of standards. This article is the first of a three-part series focusing on the regulations for closed captioning 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. Individuals and non-profit organizations develop these channels to expand the value of television as a community resource.
Wait a second, aren't PEG channels exempt from Closed Captioning Requirements?
Not necessarily. Nearly every PEG operation can improve its content accessibility in some way. Every organization 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 the Communications Act in this post.
Ok, so what does the FCC say?
The FCC has several mandates regarding closed captioning requirements. For example, the FCC requires video programming distributors to provide closed captioning on 100% of any new nonexempt English and Spanish video programming. In addition, closed captioning is required on 75% of pre-rule programming (think reruns) on each channel for 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 channels can be exempt from providing closed captions. The first is a 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 an economic burden from captioning. The FCC states that closed captioning is not required if captioning costs exceed 2% of gross revenues, 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 non-profits, 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 channel's content. Many cable operators are currently streaming PEG channels, and many cities stream both live and recorded PEG programming. However, there are still be captioning requirements.
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 the groundwork to make it easier for people with disabilities to access video programming on TV and the internet. A significant development of this Act is that if programming is closed captioned on television, it must be closed captioned when streamed online.
So, if the PEG channels are not providing closed captions on television, 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.
The self-implementing exemption includes programming from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., public service announcements shorter than 10 minutes (and not paid for by federal funding), primarily text-based programming, 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 must be filed 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.
- The nature and cost of the closed captions for the programmer.
- The impact on the operation of the provider or program owner.
- The financial resources of the provider or program owner.
- The type of operations of the provider or program owner.
A petition can also include any additional factors 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 every year, 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 must be filed with the FCC to claim financial burden.
However, it is still recommended that PEG channels determine their options to provide effective communication and information to disabled persons, i.e., closed captioning. There are different methods for 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 community's needs to the maximum extent possible.
- Caption Requirements for Public, Education and Government Channels (this post).
- ADA Compliance for Public, Educational and Government Access Channels.
- Is Your PEG Channel Exempt From FCC and ADA Compliance?
For more info on general FCC Closed Captioning rules visit:
For more information on the FCC’s exemption requirements visit:
For more info on the FCC self implementing exemption from closed captioning rules visit:
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!