Amazon accused of breaking FCC rules for closed captioning of online TV shows

WASHINGTON, DC—Advocates for people with hearing loss charge that Amazon.com has repeatedly violated new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules governing Internet captioning requirements. Several advocacy groups, including the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), stated their case in a complaint filed December 20 with the FCC.

Under a rule that took effect September 30, 2012, most full-length, non-live video programming shown on television with captions must also include closed captions when delivered online. However, the complaint to the FCC contends that Amazon has consistently failed to caption its online video programming in a timely fashion, sometimes taking more than 20 days after posting a program online to provide captions.

The TV programs allegedly delivered online without closed captioning include episodes of Fringe, CSI: NY, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and Revolution.

The complaint urged the FCC to impose the  maximum fines and injunctive sanctions on Amazon to ensure that other distributors will make their programming accessible immediately instead of violating the rules as a cost of doing business.

The legal filing was prepared by the Institute for Public Representation (IPR) on behalf of HLAA, the National Association of the Deaf, the Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Inc., the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network, the Association of Late-Deafened Adults, California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the Cerebral Palsy and Deaf Organization. IPR is a public interest law firm and clinical education program at Georgetown University Law Center

A number of the consumer groups bringing the complaint were part of the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) that helped win passage of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 that incorporated the new requirements for online TV captioning.

The accusations against Amazon.com were based on systematic observation and evaluation by the consumer organizations of how well Internet Protocol broadcasters were complying with the new FCC captioning requirements. The groups were assisted by Christian Vogler, director of the Technology Access Program at Gallaudet University, and by Blake Reid and Jessica Lee of the Institute for Public Representation.