Internet Video Closed Captioning Rules Due in January
July 14, 2011
video closed-captioning rules are due to be delivered in January. A report from
the Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee was delivered to the
Federal Communications Commission this week, triggering a six-month deadline
for new rules that require captioning of TV programming redistributed on the
“Given the goal of providing closed captioning for
television programming delivered over the Internet, the fundamental performance
objective is that regardless of how the captioned video is transmitted and
decoded, the consumer must be given an experience that is equal to, if not
better than, the experience provided as the content was originally aired on
television. . . ,” the report states.
Federal law requires the FCC to release advanced captioning rules within six
months of receiving the VPAAC report, dated July 13. The report recommends that
those rules be implemented at six-month intervals after they are published in
the Federal Register. The first of these would fall next July, requiring that
prerecorded programming not edited for the Internet be closed captioned.
The next deadline, falling in January 2012, would require captioning for live
and near-live programming online. The third and final proposed deadline,
falling in July of 2012, would require that all prerecorded programming
“substantially edited” for the Internet be captioned.
The VPAAC report also recommends performance objectives, technical standards
and regulations. E.g., nothing must be “lost” in the transcoding process,
including spelling, positioning, timing and presentation. It points out that
Internet media players must support closed-captioning and end-user display
customization in terms of language, character color, opacity, size, edge,
background and font. Exemptions may be granted for certain features, however. A
gray-scale screen may be substituted for color choices, for example.
“User settings are new to players which support
Internet-delivered video, and will require time and effort to implement,” the
As for technical standards, the report allows the use of the single standard
interchange format now used for digital television, for delivery to Internet video
distributors. Those distributors can transcode for various playout options,
such as proprietary or browser-based players, so long as the captioning
characteristics are maintained. It also notes the need for developing specific
formats for delivering closed-captioned content to the Internet, for delivery
to users, and for compatibility with various devices.
Closed captioning was first introduced in the 1970s
by WGBH-TV in Boston. The first show to be captioned was Julia Child’s PBS
show, “The French Chef.” Everyone could see the captions at the time, since no
decoders were available. Congress mandated closed captioning for most television
programming in the 1996 Telecommunications Act. President Obama extended closed
captioning to Internet-distributed TV shows last October with the Twenty-First Century
Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.
The VPAAC report is available here.
~ Deborah D. McAdams