For Hearing Impaired, Captioned Online Clips Are Coming

It’s easy to construct a long list of things official Washington could be doing but before you get too down on them, consider that at long last, the FCC today approved a regulation that will require TV clips shown online to be captioned.

It's not the national debt, nor help for the unemployed, global warming, gun laws or immigration reform, or crises in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine or Israel, but captions for "The Tonight Show" clips? Yes!  

This is no small news to the hearing impaired, I’m sure, but we’re talking clips, and not a lot of clips at that.

It covers video clips that have already aired on television with captions.

All the stuff on YouTube and other places, like Netflix for example, won’t be captioned.

And we are talking about clips. Another FCC rule, the  21st-Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 gave the FCC authority to require captions for full-length television programs, so for long-form stuff,  the captions are already there.

But some opponents said new rules would just result in fewer clips being created, period, a possibility that would seem to encourage two responses:

--They’re lying, because clips are great promo vehicles, or;

--Who cares, because it’s their promos they would be excising.

Captions only serve a relatively slim slice of the viewing public, but they come in handy on television when viewers are in public places like bars or airports. Online, clips could have even more utility because PCs and mobile phones are often used in places where volume, or the lack of it, matters.

"This is just the beginning of dealing with our responsibility to make sure that individuals with special needs are at the front of the technology train—not the back," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said.

These new rules go into effect starting at the beginning of 2016, with real heavy-lifting, clips from live news and sports events, not due until a year after that.

The rules only apply to clips from programs that were originally captioned on TV and only on sites controlled by the distributor. Obviously—or maybe not so obviously—the FCC doesn’t control content on the Internet—but apparently there was some question whether the FCC was out of bounds in the captioning issue.  

Some content makers say that the time and effort spent on a two-minute clip is about the same as what’s spent on a two-hour movie, which, to me, is an argument that goes both ways.

pj@mediapost.com

  

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