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FCC eyes changes to online video clips, businesses say don't 'underestimate the difficulty’

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March 14, 2013: In this file photo, Alexis Maldonado works in a 5th grade computer lab at Van Buren Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP)

The Federal Communications Commission is set to decide next week on whether online video clips must include closed captioning -- a rule that if approved would help hearing-impaired viewers but could prove costly and time-consuming for businesses.

The five-member commission will vote Friday on the proposed rule change, which will apply specifically to clips that have already appeared on TV with captions and would follow a similar, 2012 rule on full-length videos.

Such a change is supported by commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, who since being sworn in six months ago has made clear his keen interest in hearing-impaired issues.

“The commission previously adopted closed-captioning requirements for full-length video programming online,” he said last month. “I proposed … we go further and require captioning for video clips that end up on the Internet. Those who hear with their eyes should not be disadvantaged in their ability to access video information on the Internet.”

The change also has support from Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey, who as a House member sponsored the 2010 Twenty-First Century Communication and Video Act, under which closed-captioning changes are being made.

A Markey spokeswoman said Wednesday that the senator hopes the commission approves the rule change, which would impact an estimated 36 million Americans who are either deaf or have hearing disabilities.

However, businesses and their Washington advocates are concerned about the cost of the proposed changes and how quickly the FCC will require the clips be added to the videos.

In fact, high-ranking members of the National Association of Broadcasters met June 30 with two members of Wheeler’s legal team to discuss such issues, according to a letter obtained by FoxNews.com.

The association expressed its willingness to work with the FCC on the issues but urged the agency to consider the “many steps” required to add the captions and the added challenge of dealing with “time sensitive” clips, like those for breaking news or sports events.

The group said companies essentially need at least 12 business hours and warned that the process involves numerous web vendors “not within the FCC's jurisdiction.”

One of the major challenges is reformatting the clips for the many devices that consumers now use including computers, tablets and mobile devices.

“This is not a simple process,” the NAB said the July 2 letter to FCC Secretary Marlene H. Dortch. “The FCC must not underestimate the difficulty of this process.”

NAB spokesman Zamir Ahmed later told Fox News the association thinks the commission should adopt “sensible time frames” and “must shy away from unreasonable demands that would have adverse consequences for viewers by forcing video clips off the Internet.”

The outcome to Friday’s vote is expected to be close. Wheeler and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Democrats, are expected to vote in favor of changes, while Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, Republicans, are expected to oppose the changes, with the deciding vote perhaps coming from Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, a source said.

Similar groups have express concerns like those outlined by the NAB.

The Digital Media Association -- which represents Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and YouTube -- also warned that adding captions is not as simple as it may appear.

“The time and cost of enabling captions is not substantially less for a 2-minute clip than for a 2-hour full-length movie,” the group told The Hill newspaper.