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Telecommunications Act of 1996

SEC. 305. VIDEO PROGRAMMING ACCESSIBILITY. Title VII is amended by inserting after section 712 (47 U.S.C. 612) the following new section: "SEC. 713. VIDEO PROGRAMMING ACCESSIBILITY. "(a) COMMISSION INQUIRY.- Within 180 days after the date of enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Federal Communications Commission shall complete an inquiry to ascertain the level at which video programming is closed captioned. Such inquiry shall examine the extent to which existing or previously published programming is closed captioned, the size of the video programming provider or programming owner providing closed captioning, the size of the market served, the relative audience shares achieved, or any other related factors. The Commission shall submit to the Congress a report on the results of such inquiry

"(b) ACCOUNTABILITY CRITERIA.-Within 18 months after such date of enactment, the Commission shall prescribe such regulations as are necessary to implement this section. Such regulations shall ensure that---
"(1) video programming first published or exhibited after the effective data of such regulations is fully accessible through the provision of closed captions, except as provided in subsection (d); and
:(2) video programming providers or owners maximize the accessibility of video programming first published or exhibited prior to the effective date of such regulations through the provision of closed captions, except as provided in subsection (d).

"(c) DEADLINES FOR CAPTIONING.-- Such regulations shall include an appropriate schedule of deadlines for the provision of closed captioning of video programming.

"(d) EXEMPTIONS.-- Notwithstanding subsection (b)--"(1) the commission may exempt by regulation programs, classes of programs, or services for which the Commission has determined that the provision of closed captioning would be economically burdensome to the provider or owner of such programming;
"(2) a provider of video programming or the owner of any program carried by the provider shall not be obligated to supply closed captions if such action would be inconsistent with contracts in effect on the date of enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, except that nothing in this section shall be construed to relieve a video programming provider of its obligations to provide services required by Federal law; and
"(3) a provider of video programming or program owner may petition the Commission for an exemption from the requirements of this section, and the Commission may grant such petition upon a showing that the requirements contained in this section would result in an undue burden.

"(e) UNDUE BURDEN.-- The term "undue burden' means significant difficulty or expense. In determining whether the closed captions necessary to comply with the requirements of this paragraph would result in an undue economic burden, the factors to be considered include---
"(1) the nature and cost of the closed captions for the programming;
"(2) the impact on the operation of the provider or program owner;
"(3) the financial resources of the provider or program owner; and
"(4) the type of operations of the provider or program owner.