National Association of the Deaf

NAD Commends FCC for Reversing Angler's Order



The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) commends the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for its October 20, 2011 order which overturns its decision in 2006 to grant nearly 300 captioning waivers to provide captioning on TV. This FCC decision is called the "Angler's Order."

In October 2006, the NAD and Consumer Groups  filed a "Review of the Bureau Order" and "Petition for Emergency Stay" with the FCC to reverse the "Angler's Order." Prior to the 2006 Angler's Order, the FCC had granted only three exemptions and only for a limited time (one to three years each). The FCC had established a process for requesting and granting requests for exceptions when closed captioning was an "undue burden" (too difficult or too expensive). That process includes public notice and an opportunity to comment.

However, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 required by January 2006 that the 100% television captioning benchmark be achieved. At the time of the benchmark, the FCC received over 500 requests for exemption from the closed captioning rules. Without public notice or comment, the FCC granted almost 300 of those requests. The FCC, at that time, appeared to create a new exemption based on "hardship" and reasoned that non-profit status and assertions by petitioners of the non-commercial nature of their programming was sufficient for exemption from captioning of their TV programs. Further, the FCC shut out the NAD, other advocacy groups, and consumers from the well-established waiver process.

The NAD along with other deaf and hard of hearing advocates including Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI), Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA), and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) were outraged. This group of advocacy organizations pointed out that the administrative process had been violated because there were no public posting and processing of these exemption requests, and that the law had not been followed. These exemptions were granted without the requesting parties having to prove undue burden for each of their specific petitions.

"This important FCC order of October 20, 2011 puts the industry on notice that they are expected to comply with the law and FCC regulations as written. Consumers will not tolerate end-runs around the law or regulations. We appreciate the FCC's commitment to defending our rights," said NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins.

The October 20, 2011 FCC Order overturning the 2006 Anglers’ Order also opens a Notice of Proposed Rule-Making (NPRM) seeking public comment on proposed amendments to FCC rules governing individual closed captioning exemption requests including the provisional interpretation of “economically burdensome.” The NAD will prepare comments in response to this NPRM and post information for deaf and hard of hearing advocates.

In addition, the original 200 petitioners who were granted waivers through the Angler's Order must file a new petition for continued exemption from closed captioning within 90 days, with updated information to support a claim that providing closed captions on their television programming would be economically burdensome.

Read FCC Order in Word,  PDF, or text.

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