By Maria Browne and Brad Guyton

Updated September 12, 2012 at 10 AM EST

On August 17, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) extended to January 1, 2014 the date for video programming providers (VPDs) to comply with new captioning functionality requirements imposed under the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). The functionality requirements, which enable the end user to manipulate the appearance of captions, apply to any VPD that provides applications, plug-ins or devices in order to deliver video programming.

The FCC declined, however, to extend the timeframe for complying with rules requiring the rendering or pass-through of closed captions. VPDs must meet the FCC’s rendering/pass-through requirements by the current deadline of September 30, 2012.

The FCC made these moves via an order that addressed two different waiver requests submitted by the Digital Media Association (DiMA). First, DiMA requested a limited waiver extending the deadline for compliance with various user configuration requirements for captions, including presentation, character color, character opacity, character size, fonts, caption background color and opacity, character edge attributes, caption window color, language, and preview and setting retention. The FCC granted a limited waiver of this deadline (moving it to January 1, 2014, as noted above), easing the nearly industry-wide burden on VPDs by providing additional implementation time. As a result, VPDs now have until 2014 to rewrite software or meet any other technical challenges to provide full captioning functionality.

Second, DiMA requested a limited waiver of rules regarding the rendering (that is, decoding closed captions for display) of captions by all VPDs that do not currently provide closed captioning. This request was denied by the FCC. Because not all VPDs needed the requested relief and the industry has been on notice about the upcoming requirements since the CVAA was passed nearly two years ago, the current deadline of September 30, 2012 will remain in effect. Thus, VPDs have until the end of this September to ensure that their software, applications, or plug-ins (or the devices upon which content is played) decode or pass through the required closed captions to display properly for the end user.