Comcast agrees to decree on closed captioning mishap


The FCC and Comcast spent some time in 2010 sorting through a situation in which closed captioning content failed to make it intact to consumers on five separate occasions, a failure tied to a particular manufacturer’s equipment. The FCC stated that the matter did no harm to Comcast’s status as a qualified licensee, and Comcast will make a hefty contribution to the US Treasury.

And make no mistake about it – the contribution is hefty, to the tune of $500K.

Here is the rule that Comcast ran afoul of: “All video programming distributors shall deliver all programming received from the video programming owner or other origination source containing closed captioning to receiving television households with the original closed captioning data intact in a format that can be recovered and displayed by decoders meeting the standards of part 15 of this chapter unless such programming is recaptioned or the captions are reformatted by the programming distributor.”

FCC noted, “On April 20, 2010, the Enforcement Bureau issued a letter of inquiry regarding Comcast’s compliance with the Closed Captioning Pass-Through Rule. Comcast responded on June 7, 2010 and described four different situations in which particular manufacturers’ equipment failed to deliver closed captioning data intact. It supplemented its response on July 21, 2010 to report an additional situation. The Parties entered into an agreement to toll the statute of limitations for four of the situations on September 22, 2010.”

In addition to its generous financial contribution, Comcast will review its closed captioning pass-through testing procedures, report any instances of non-compliances and come up with a compliance plan.

In the end, the FCC gave the cable giant a vote of confidence. It stated, “After reviewing the terms of the Consent Decree, and evaluating the facts before us, we find that the public interest would be served by adopting the Consent Decree and terminating the investigation. We also conclude that, in the absence of material new information not previously disclosed to the Commission, the matters raised in the investigation do not raise any substantial and material questions of fact regarding Comcast’s qualifications to hold an authorization or license issued by the Commission.”

RBR-TVBR observation: It is not uncommon for the FCC and a party with a reviewable transaction to clear the books of any outstanding matters when it is time to approve the reviewable transaction. The consent decree route allows the matter to be dispensed with efficiently with no admission of guilt by the party under review.