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FCC mandates SMPTE Timed Text standard for online closed-captioning

On January 12th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave its official nod to the Timed Text standard for captioning online video content developed by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). Using it assures professionals that their content complies with the commission’s new rules for the captioning of online content, as mandated in the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) of 2010 (signed into law by the President in February 2011).

The new standard is designed to ensure the accessibility, usability, and affordability of broadband, wireless, and Internet technologies for people with disabilities and must now be used by TV stations, cable systems, broadcast and cable networks and virtually every other professional video program producer that provides programming online. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 54.4 million people reported some level of disability and 35 million reported a severe disability in 2005.

Ann Marie Rohaly, who chaired the SMPTE task force that worked on the standards effort, said the new ruling “provides an unambiguous roadmap for broadcasters and other content providers who want to put more content online, or accelerate efforts already underway, and ensure they meet CVAA requirements.”

To help broadcasters understand how to apply the Timed Text standard, SMPTE will host a Webinar on the subject, set to take place on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 3:00 Eastern. Details are available.

The SMPTE Timed Text standard, based on the Timed Text Markup Language (TTML) 1.0 of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is already used in production environments to repurpose television content for Internet use; is the basis for subtitles and captions in the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem’s UltraViolet format for commercial movie and television content; shares a common base with subtitles for Internet-delivered television in the U.K. and other European countries; and is currently being used by several video services and Internet video players.