The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) long ago began enacting laws to address captions, and other government entities around the world have done the same. In the U.S., the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act regulates closed captioning for anyone broadcasting content to viewers in the United States, whether by standard over-the-air distribution or over IP. A more recent FCC ruling took captions into the Internet realm, saying that TV networks and video websites must provide closed captions for any TV content available online. The ruling means that, with certain exceptions, any video content that has aired on TV must also have closed captions when streamed online. FCC regulations have also evolved to include requirements for caption correctness, completeness, and timing, and pending review are additional regulations for any video clip being distributed over a streaming service.
When an issue is reported, the burden of proof is on the broadcaster to show that there were no problems. The rules affect every device, website, distributor, producer, and network that carries long-form broadcast content. Houses of worship are no exception. Any church distributing programming via a television broadcast channel — there are close to 30 such churches in the United States alone — is subject to closed captioning regulations. If the church is distributing that same programming over streaming solutions, then it is subject to further regulation as described above. Failure to comply could result not only in fines and penalties, but also in a lower quality of experience for worshippers and a barrier to receiving the church’s message. Though closed captioning doesn’t apply to all ministries now, it will become more and more relevant as churches grow and technologies evolve, such as distribution through OTT providers.