Amazon accused of noncompliance with video captioning rules

Amazon accused of noncompliance with video captioning rules

Deaf and hard of hearing consumer groups accuse Amazon of not captioning streaming videos in compliance with the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act

By Phil Johnson

January 02, 2013

Note: To view graphs/statistics – click here

Recent captioning rates for online videos

Institute for Public Representation

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing, choosing a video streaming service involves evaluating more than just cost and selection. You’re probably also concerned about the accessibility of their offerings; that is, whether their streaming videos are captioned. If so, you may be less likely to choose Amazon, based on a complaint recently filed with the FCC.

The complaint, filed by a number of consumer groups for the deaf or hard of hearing, allege that Amazon is in violation of online video captioning rules required by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). The CVAA sets a number of deadlines for making online (IP-delivered) video accessible, the first of which was September 30, 2012. Any pre-recorded video that was shown on television with captions on or after that date must also include closed captions if streamed. There are more deadlines in the coming months regarding the captioning of live and archival videos.

The complaint against Amazon was based on a report filed with the FCC in late December that assessed initial compliance with the captioning rules following the September 30 deadline. The report looked at a sample of roughly 100 online videos that should have been captioned, across a variety of distribution platforms. In general, the results were promising: 82% of the videos reviewed did comply with the law, and in a number of cases, they found that video providers were going beyond the requirements and beginning to caption live and archival videos, well ahead of the later deadlines for captioning imposed by the CVAA.

Despite the overall good news, the researchers found that Amazon “consistently failed to include captions as soon as programs were initially made available for IP delivery.” Over the course of a month in which they specifically monitored Amazon’s offerings, they found that, initially, two-thirds of their programming that was subject to the CVAA captioning rules were not in compliance. While they did see improvement in compliance over the course of the month, the time lag in offering captions after a video was first available for streaming on Amazon was still significant, with a median time of 2.5 days and a maximum of 20 days.

Based on these findings, the complaint subsequently filed with the FCC against Amazon alleges “a pattern of willful and brazen noncompliance”. The noncompliance is interpreted as willful due to an earlier request by Amazon (along with a number of other distributors) to delay implementation of the CVAA rules. The complaint asks the FCC to impose financial penalties and to require Amazon to immediately comply with the CVAA.

I reached out to Amazon for a comment about the complaint shortly after it was filed, but have not received a response.

Are you deaf or hard of hearing and watch TV or movies online? If so, what provider or service do you use? What’s your experience with online video captioning since the end of September? Please share in the comments.



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