Seattle council delays vote on closed captioning ordinance – WR submits proposed amendments

Mar 29, 2019
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Written by Washington Retail
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The Seattle City Council’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee delayed a vote this week on a proposed ordinance calling for retailers selling televisions to show closed captioning on all of the sets.

Committee Chair Lisa Herbold announced the committee still needed to hear comments from the Small Business Advisory Council before deciding how to proceed. The committee will consider the ordinance at its meeting is on April 9. The draft calls for fines of up to $125 for a first violation to up to $300 for subsequent violations.

Washington Retail was represented by John Engber, Director of the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle. Engber has proposed amendments to the draft to make it more practical for retailers while addressing the needs of deaf or hard-of-hearing people.

The committee discussed three amendments raised by Engber:

  • Exempting TVs playing non-closed captioning programming such as ski videos or programming created by TV manufacturers
  • Limiting closed captioning requirement to a fixed percentage of TVs in a TV showroom
  • No closed captioning requirement when all TVs are on mute

Engber also noted that the current draft of the ordinance would not allow a salesperson to turn off closed captioning at the request of a customer, even for a few minutes. He proposed allowing a salesperson to turn off the closed captioning in a showroom while working with a customer who wants to see the TV without closed captioning. Concerned retailers are urged to contact Engber at 206-850-5517 or at jengber@washingtonretail.org.