Closed Captioning Rule endangers availability of governmental meeting videos | WisCommunity

Closed Captioning Rule endangers availability of governmental meeting videos

January 29, 2018 - 4:59pm

Confusion is reigning among community television groups in the state as it is becoming unclear if video of governmental meetings can be shown on community tv. The Green Bay Public Television Station (owned by the city of Green Bay) has because the meetings are not closed captioned. This has been brewing for a while, but the refusal to air these shows is recent, and from the viewpoint of the cities involved, abrupt. 

There is quite a bit of confusion as to whether PEG stations may broadcast meetings that are not closed captioned. Many of the stations are reading the new FCC requirement (section 508) as exempting PEG stations with under 3 million dollars in revenue, but Green Bay is not interpreting the  law this way 

"Green Bay will no longer accept any media submitted for the purpose of airing on the Green Bay Public Television Station unless such media is closed captioning compliant," Green Bay City Attorney Vanessa Chavez said in a Dec. 8 letter to the municipalities.

Neenah and the other involved municipialities believe their coverage of the meetings is exempt. Other PEG stations in the state believe they are exempt under the new laws because they are nonprofits rather than government entitites. 

For many of the community TV stations, the question clearly is if they should be forced to stop providing access to government meetings altogether since they do not give access to non-hearing citizens. Clearly the law is well-intentioned, but the practical result may be that video recordings of government meetings will not be available to anyone since closed captioning is fairly expensive (in the range of $2000 to $10000 annually for each government body) and the cities, towns, and counties involved have not budgeted for this cost.  This may take a while to be resolved, but in the meantime do not expect to see your local government meetings on television.

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Steve Hanson
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