[Federal Register Volume 61, Number 19 (Monday, January 29, 1996)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 2781-2782]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 96-1498]



47 CFR Parts 73 and 76

[MM Docket No. 95-176, DA 96-53]

Television Services; Cable Television Services; Closed Captioning 
and Video Description of Video Programming

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Notice of Inquiry; extension of comment and reply comment 


SUMMARY: This action extends the deadline for filing comments and reply 
comments to the Notice of Inquiry in the above-cited docket. It is 
taken in response to requests to extend the comment and reply comment 
period made by the National Association of Broadcasters, the 
Association of Independent Stations, Inc., Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., 
CBS Inc., Fox Broadcasting, and NBC, Inc., and by The National 
Association of the Deaf. The intended effect of this action is to allow 
the parties to the proceeding to have additional time in which to file 
comments and reply comments.

DATES: Comments are due on or before February 28, 1996, and reply 
comments are due on or before March 15, 1996.

ADDRESSES: Federal Communications Commission, Washington, D.C. 20554.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Somers (202-418-2130) or 
Charles Logan (202-418-2130), Mass Media Bureau.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a synopsis of the Order Granting 
Extension of the Time for Filing Comments in MM Docket No. 95-176, DA 
96-53, adopted January 22, 1996 and released January 22, 1996. The 
complete text of this Order is available for inspection and copying 
during normal business hours in the FCC Reference Center (Room 239), 
1919 M Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., and also may be purchased from 
the Commission's copy contractor, International Transcription Service, 
(202) 857-3800, 2100 M Street NW., Suite 140, Washington, DC 20037.

Synopsis of Order Granting Extension of Time for Filing Comments

    1. On December 1, 1995, the Commission adopted a Notice of Inquiry 
in MM Docket No. 95-176 (NOI), FCC-95-484, 60 FR 65052 (December 18, 
1995), seeking comment on a wide variety of issues relating to closed 
captioning and video description services. Comments were initially due 
to be filed by January 29, 1996, and reply comments by February 14, 
    2. On January 16, 1996, a Motion to Extend the Comment Period was 
filed by the National Association of Broadcasters, the Association of 
Independent Television Stations, Inc., Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., CBS 
Inc., Fox Broadcasting Company, and the National Broadcasting Company, 
Inc. (collectively referred to as ``Broadcasters''). Broadcasters point 
out that both the House and Senate have passed versions of 
telecommunications legislation that would require the Commission to 
adopt new rules requiring closed captioning of most television 
programming. See NOI at Paras. 7-8, 25-31. They claim that the 
information the Commission will need to gather will vary significantly 
depending on whether any such 

[[Page 2782]]
legislation is enacted. They argue that ``the resources of both 
Broadcasters and the Commission would be poorly used in preparing and 
considering comments raised in the [NOI] when a second set of comments 
would almost certainly have to be sought on similar issues if Congress 
adopts the captioning legislation.'' Accordingly, Broadcasters request 
the Commission to extend the filing date for comments in this 
proceeding until 30 days after the date of enactment of the 
Telecommunications Act of 1995, or--if Congress fails to adopt a bill--
until a further order of the Commission.1

    \1\  Broadcasters request in the alternative that the Commission 
extend the comment deadlines by 30 days.

    3. On January 17, 1996, The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) 
requested that the Commission extend the due date for filing comments 
and reply comments in this proceeding by 30 days. In support of its 
request, NAD argues that the occurrence of certain events make meeting 
the existing deadlines extremely difficult, if not impossible. First, 
NAD notes that Gallaudet University announced the closing of the 
National Center for Law and Deafness (Law Center), effective January 
19, 1996. The Law Center, which NAD states has played a key role in 
coordinating and preparing comments on Commission proceedings affecting 
telecommunications and television access, was given only seven weeks 
notice of its closing date after being in operation for twenty years. 
NAD claims that because the time allotted for shutting down the Law 
Center and transferring its operations was so short, the Law Center had 
little or no time to begin to address the matters raised in the NOI. 
NAD states that it will be assuming the role formerly filled by the Law 
Center in addressing telecommunications matters raised by the 
Commission. Second, NAD notes that the severe winter snow storm that 
struck the Northeast forced closure of many private and governmental 
offices for approximately the entire week of January 8-12, 1996, 
impeding NAD's ability to gather the information needed for a proper 
response to the NOI. Finally, the partial closure of the Federal 
government resulted in a furlough of employees at several governmental 
agencies, including the Department of Education, which may have 
relevant information to file in connection with this proceeding.2

    \2\  NAD also supports its request with the argument that ``many 
individuals were out of town or otherwise unavailable'' during the 
Christmas holidays. We do not believe that this fact provides any 
justification for an extension of the comment period.

    4. We decline to grant Broadcasters' request for an indefinite 
extension pending developments on the pending telecommunications reform 
legislation. While we understand that further comments may ultimately 
be necessary, we believe that submission of the information sought by 
the NOI will provide a useful foundation for further Commission action 
whether or not that legislation is enacted. The Commission will be able 
to expedite the implementation of any legislation that becomes law and 
accelerate completion of any further proceedings the Commission may be 
required by the legislation to conduct on both closed captioning and 
video description. Further, the comments submitted should provide us 
with information that would be useful in preparing any Notice of 
Proposed Rule Making that might be necessary to implement the 
legislation. If the legislation is not enacted, the record in this 
proceeding will enable the Commission to ``assess the possibility of 
adopting regulatory requirements in this area under its existing 
statutory authority.'' NOI at para. 26.
    5. With regard to NAD's request for an extension, we are mindful 
that Section 1.46 of the Commission's Rules, 47 CFR Sec. 1.46, 
articulates a Commission policy that extensions of time for filing 
comments in rulemaking proceedings are not to be routinely granted. 
Nevertheless, we find that good cause exists for granting a short 
extension of the comment and reply comment deadlines. We take note of 
the following factors which, viewed in their totality, we believe 
warrant grant of a 30-day extension: (1) the abrupt closing of the Law 
Center at Gallaudet University, and the need for its successor 
organization, NAD, to gather comprehensive information on short notice; 
(2) the unusually severe winter storms, which have recently stalled 
mail deliveries, disrupted transit, and forced many workplaces to close 
for up to a week, and have therefore complicated efforts to prepare 
comments, particularly for those parties whose comments required 
coordination among multiple entities or persons; and (3) the partial 
federal government closure, which has made it difficult for parties to 
gather from agencies relevant information regarding closed captioning 
and video description services.
    6. Accordingly, it is ordered, that the request filed by the 
National Association of the Deaf for an extension of time in which to 
file comments and reply comments in response to the Notice of Inquiry 
in MM Docket No. 95-176 IS GRANTED to the extent indicated herein. It 
is further ordered that the request of the National Association of 
Broadcasters, et al., for an extension contingent on the passage of the 
pending telecommunications legislation is denied.
    7. It is further ordered, that the time for filing comments in the 
above- captioned proceeding is extended to February 28, 1996, and the 
time for filing reply comments is extended to March 15, 1996.
    8. This action is taken pursuant to authority found in Sections 
4(i) and 303(r) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 
U.S.C. Secs. 154(i) and 303(r), and Sections 0.204(b), 0.283 and 1.45 
of the Commission's Rules, 47 CFR Secs. 0.204(b), 0.283 and 1.45.

Federal Communications Commission.
Renee Licht,
Deputy Chief, Policy Mass Media Bureau.
[FR Doc. 96-1498 Filed 1-26-96; 8:45 am]