FCC Rules Against Church on Closed Captioning

The FCC recently denied a church’s request for a waiver from closed captioning rules, shedding more light on the agency’s approach to determining what may truly be an “economically burdensome” situation.  In 2011, the FCC reversed approximately 300 broad closed captioning waivers and required those exempted to re-apply for more thorough case-by-case review.  At that time, NRB hosted an important teleconference to help Christian TV ministries navigate the new regulatory terrain and to “encourage Christian communicators to take a very proactive approach to sharing the Gospel of Christ with all people, and the hearing-impaired community is no exception.”  This month’s ruling was against one of those re-applying for a waiver:  Curtis Baptist Church, which produces a weekly Sunday morning program on a TV station in Augusta, GA.  While the church claimed the extra $26,000 per year for closed captioning would up its production costs by 61 percent and could threaten the continuation of this ministry of more than 30 years, the FCC rejected that argument.  Notably, the FCC looked past the specific budget for the program, and instead at the church’s total balance sheet.  In his analysis, David Oxenford of Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, concluded, “The principal issue that will be reviewed in any captioning waiver case will be the overall financial health of the program provider.  Nonprofit entities seemingly will not be cut any slack – if they can pay for the captioning out of general operating funds, they will be required to do so.”

  • Find the full FCC ruling here.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: December 12, 2014


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