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FCC Proposes Rules to Expand Video Description Access

Posted by Anna on April 5, 2016 at 9:00 am. CVAA, FCC, Video Describers, Video Description
Video Description Symbol In White And Gray Tones

Video Description Symbol In White And Gray Tones

On April 1, 2016, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to expand the availability of video described programming. Video description makes video programming accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired by enabling audio-narration to describe key visual elements of a television program during pauses in the dialogue. This came shortly after the Disability Advisory Council Video Programming Subcommittee presented a list of issues to be considered should the FCC decide to issue a NPRM of this type.

The FCC proposes the following key rule changes:

Increase the amount of described programming on each included network carried by a covered broadcast station or multichannel video programming distributor, from 50 hours per calendar quarter to 87.5 (a 75% increase);

Increase the number of networks required to provide video description from four broadcast and five non-broadcast networks to five broadcast and ten non-broadcast networks;

Create a “no-backsliding” rule, so a network would remain subject to the rules even if it is no longer one of the top five or top ten ranking networks; and

Require video programming distributors to provide proper customer support contacts in order to improve consumer access to video description.

The NPRM also seeks comment on other matters, such as a potential requirement for described video-on-demand programming, a dedicated audio stream for video description, and a change of terminology from “video described” to “audio described.”

Comment and reply comment due dates will be announced once the Notice is published in the Federal Register.

To find out more about how you can have your program video described, contact your CaptionMax representative or sales@captionmax.com.

FCC Disability Advisory Committee Issues Recommendations Regarding Video Description NPRM

Posted by Anna on March 4, 2016 at 10:30 am. CVAA, FCC, Video Description
FCC Disability Advisory Committee Meeting Graphic - February 23, 2016

FCC Disability Advisory Committee Meeting Graphic - February 23, 2016

Last week, the FCC Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) held their quarterly meeting. Among the many topics that were discussed, the Video Description Working Group, a part of the DAC Video Programming Subcommittee, presented a list of issues that should be considered if the FCC decides to issue a Notice  of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to determine whether to increase the number of hours of video-described programming, which was approved and adopted by the DAC.

Currently the FCC rules require the top four commercial television broadcast networks and the top five national non-broadcast networks (the “covered networks”) to provide at least 50 hours per quarter of prime time or children’s programming with video description. They are prohibited from issuing additional video description rules unless it determines, no earlier than June 30, 2016, “that the need for and benefits of providing video description for video programming, insofar as such programming is transmitted for display on television, are greater than the technical and economic costs of providing such additional programming.”  If the FCC if does decide that the need for and benefits of providing video description for video programming displayed on television are greater than the technical and economic costs of providing such additional programming, the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) prohibits the FCC from increasing the amount of required video-described programming by more than 75% of the current requirement.

The following are the issues that the were adopted by the DAC for the FCC to consider:

What is the extent of current consumer use of video- described programming required under the existing rules? Are there any studies or metrics on such use?

Would an increase in the number of mandated hours of video-described programming introduce any technical or operational problems?

What are the financial, operational, and/or opportunity costs of providing additional video-described programming? How should they be measured and quantified?

Since the Act instructs the FCC to weigh the costs of additional video-described programming against the benefits of and needs for such programming, how should the FCC measure the benefits and assess the needs?

If the FCC were to increase the number of required hours of video-described programming, should its rules take into account program schedules that contain less than the required number of hours of prime time or children’s programming that could be video-described? For example, NCTA previously urged the FCC to modify its rules to provide flexibility to networks that may air a significant amount of live prime time programming in a given quarter that would be inappropriate for video description.

If the FCC were to modify its rules to take into account quarters in which a covered network airs less than the required number of hours of prime time or children’s programming that could be video-described, should an affected network be required to file for a waiver based on its anticipated program schedule? Or should any revised rule avoid the need for FCC pre-approval by allowing the network to make a showing in response to a complaint?

If the FCC were to increase the required number of hours of video-described programming, should programmers be allowed to count toward compliance not only prime time or children’s programming, but other categories of programming, too?

If the FCC were to increase the required number of hours of video-described programming, should it relax its rules on counting repeat programming?

If you are interested in learning how to add video description to your accessibility strategy, contact us at sales@captionmax.com.

FCC Enhances Accessibility Of Video Programming On Television

Posted by Anna on February 19, 2016 at 4:08 pm. Captioning, FCC
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

Yesterday the FCC took a step forward in ensuring equal television access for millions of Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing.  In the Second Report and Order, they adopted amendments to its rules on closed captioning for television, clarifying which entities are responsible for which parts of the delivery and quality of closed captions on television:

“The provision of closed captioning depends upon the coordination of both video programmers and video programming distributors (VPDs) to both generate and deliver high quality caption content to viewers. To date, however, only VPDs have been directly subject to the Commission’s closed captioning rules, leaving half of the responsible parties unaccountable for the quality of their captioning.”

Under this order, video programmers are responsible for ensuring compliance with FCC closed captioning quality requirements that went into effect in 2015 as well as providing closed captions for all non-exempt programming. VPDs are required to pass captions through to the end user and are responsible for the maintenance and delivery of captions.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said he believes “this new approach of shared responsibilities under our rules will greatly improve the quality of closed captions for millions of Americans who rely on this feature to understand television programming.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Calls For Greater Accessibility For The Blind

Posted by Anna on November 4, 2015 at 11:48 am. FCC, Techy
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

Marking his second anniversary as FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler penned a blog post reflecting on the many initiatives that lie before him. Among them, he recognized the work that needs to be continued to create accessible technology for Americans who are blind or low-vision that will allow them to access video content:

“Thanks to FCC rules, video devices with ‘talking menus’ and ‘talking guides’ will be available to consumers by December of next year, and these devices will dramatically simplify the ability of individuals who are blind and visually impaired to view television programming. At our November meeting, we will take further steps to ensure that individuals who are blind or visually impaired can more easily access video programming on the increasing number of devices used to view video programming. In particular, our new rules would require covered manufacturers and MVPDs to inform consumers about which accessible devices and features are available and how to use them.”

Earlier in 2015, Comcast launched their Emily’s Oz campaign to promote their X1 Talking Guide, the very type of assisitive technology that Chairman Wheeler is referring to. The X1 Talking Guide is available in both English and Spanish an can be used to turn on video description.

He noted that the FCC would be taking additional steps to ensure that consumers who are deaf and hard of hearing can more easily activate closed captioning features.

CaptionMax 2015 Consumer Advisory Board Meeting

Posted by Anna on September 29, 2015 at 11:00 am. CVAA, Consumer Advisory Board, FCC, Video Describers, Video Description
CaptionMax executives, production staff, and Consumer Advisory Board members seated at a conference table

CaptionMax executives, production staff, and Consumer Advisory Board members seated at a conference table

September 26th marked CaptionMax’s 18th annual Consumer Advisory Board meeting, which was every bit as fun as it was productive. Our board members are consumers of video description and closed captioning, consumer advocates, and educators of blind and deaf children. They travel from near and far to come together and discuss the finer points of media accessibility, particularly within the realm of video description.

CaptionMax CAB members: Tim, Cathy, Ardis, and Joya

CaptionMax CAB members: Tim, Cathy, Ardis, and Joya

In addition to talking about larger regulatory facets of description, like the expansion from the top 25 largest local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox to the top 60 television markets for the top four broadcast networks, the board discussed a number of scenarios that come up frequently. These scenarios included the best way to describe transitional shots, archaic technology, camera effects, flashbacks, and flash-forwards.  There was also a great deal of discussion regarding the nuance that goes into creating voice-over for different types of programming.

Our menu of topics for the day

Our menu of topics for the day

We owe a debt of gratitude to our board members for the time they spend with us each year. The wealth of insight their diversity of experience brings to our organization helps refine our best practices and grow our expertise in the field of media accessibility.

CaptionMax CAB members: Tim, Ardis, Cathy, Joya, and Jordan

CaptionMax CAB members: Tim, Ardis, Cathy, Joya, and Jordan

FCC Deadline: IP Clips Must Be Captioned January 2016

Posted by Anna on August 25, 2015 at 2:30 pm. CVAA, Captioning, FCC

FCC Logo

Another FCC deadline is right around the corner.  Beginning January 2016, all IP-delivered video clips taken from programming that was originally broadcast with closed captions will have to be captioned as well.  This milestone of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act only applies to “straight-lift” clips, which contain a single excerpt of a captioned television program with the same video and audio that was presented on television. “Montages,” which contain multiple straight-lift clips, will need to be captioned starting January 2017.

The FCC interpreted the CVAA to require closed captioning of IP-delivered video clips regardless of the content or length of the clip. While some commenters argued that the mandate should only apply the closed captioning requirements to clips with certain content or above a certain length, the FCC disagreed. They firmly believe Congress’s intent in enacting the CVAA was to ensure that consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing have full access to video programming that is shown on television with captions, including any video programming posted online as video clips. Whether those video clips contain news, sports, entertainment, or any other type of content is immaterial. They conclude that by making a clip available via the Internet, a video programming distributor or provider has made a conscious decision that it has value for the general public, regardless of whether it is 10 seconds or 10 minutes long.

This will no doubt be a welcome change for the millions of deaf Americans that are currently without access to the vast majority of IP-clips. While rates have certainly improved over the years, the most recent data that Consumer Groups submitted to the FCC in February 2014 indicated that only 57 percent of news clips and 18 percent of non-news clips are captioned, leaving many citizens cut off from critical news programming and important cultural touchstones.

CaptionMax is already working with many of our clients to help them customize a workflow so they can become compliant with this mandate before it goes into effect. We strongly encourage all of our clients to begin discussions with us today to ensure there is adequate time to define, develop, and test a new workflow prior to the January 1st deadline. To receive more information on how to incorporate the closed captioning of IP-delivered clips into your post-production workflow, contact your CaptionMax representative or sales@captionmax.com.

iTunes To Begin Pulling Content That Is Not Closed Captioned

Posted by Anna on July 1, 2015 at 11:34 am. Captioning, FCC, OTT

Right on the heels of releasing version 12.2 of iTunes, today is the day Apple will begin pulling any content that is not closed captioned that was originally broadcast with captions off of its platform. This effort stems from a requirement of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) that ensures distributors are only offering FCC-compliant content within digital U.S. markets. Apple made a commitment to this deadline in June of 2013.

While this deadline only applies to full-length programming, beginning January 1, 2016, this will apply to all single excerpt clips that are lifted from programs that were originally broadcast with closed captions. These clips are also referred to as “direct lift clips” or “straight lift clips.” There are estimates that, leading up to this deadline, as much as 18% of content on iTunes lacks closed captions, meaning the potential removal of many widely-loved TV shows and films.

To learn more about offline closed captioning workflows for your programming, contact sales@captionmax.com or request a quote.

FCC Video Description Rules Expand July 1, 2015

Posted by Anna on June 17, 2015 at 12:00 pm. FCC, Video Description

In the coming weeks there will be additional requirements to the existing FCC rules surrounding video description. Beginning July 1, 2015, per the 21st Century Communications and Video Act, video description requirements expand from the top 25 largest local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox to the top 60 television markets for the top four broadcast networks.

CaptionMax has a simple, efficient workflow for creating high-quality description at the same time as your offline closed captions. Our entire process, from scriptwriting to voiceover to mixing a 5.1 surround sound audio file, is done entirely in-house, giving you unparalleled security for your assets.

Our team of describers creates a custom style guide for each series, compiling information about a program’s characters, locations, and show-specific terminology to assure consistency across episodes. Every artistic and technical phase of creating the description has a QC component to it so we can guarantee that our end product is outstanding.

To learn more about how video description can become a part of your workflow, contact sales@captionmax.com or call 612.341.3566.

Deadline for compliance with new FCC regulations is fast approaching

Posted by Anna on March 12, 2015 at 5:59 pm. Captioning, FCC

On February 20, 2014, the FCC unanimously approved new, more comprehensive rules for TV closed captioning that will go into effect this coming Monday, March 16. These rules ensure that deaf and hard of hearing viewers have full access and will apply to all television programming with captions. This is great news for consumers, but we know our clients may be concerned about how to stay compliant with these emerging regulations. CaptionMax helped draft the captioning vendor best practices and can guarantee to our clients that we are in compliance. Below is a summary of these best practices. To view the complete Report and Order on Closed Captioning Quality, visit the FCC’s webpage.

This FCC order adopts new standards of quality for accuracy, synchronicity (timing), program completeness, and placement of closed captions, requiring:

• Accuracy: Captions must reflect the dialogue, sound effects, and music in the audio track to the greatest extent possible based on the type of the programming and must include speaker identification.
• Synchronicity: Captions must coincide with their corresponding dialogue, sound effects, and lyrics to the greatest extent possible based on the type of the programming, as well as appearing at a speed that is readable by viewers.
• Program Completeness: Captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program, to the greatest extent possible, based on the type of the programming.
• Placement: Captions may not cover up other important on-screen information, such as featured text, graphics, or other information critical to the comprehension of the program’s content.

To learn more about requirements for Video Programmers and Captioning Vendors, click here.

 

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