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FCC Seeks More Input on Closed Captioning

WASHINGTON—Closed-captioning rules are still being sorted. The Federal Communications Commission has issued a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the first one issued in February seeking feedback on contact information and availability.

Specifically, the commission asks if it should require TV providers to file contact information and captioning compliance certification with the commission or if some other platform would make it more available to the public, and whether doing either of those things would represent a course change and if it’s justified.

The question of how to handle contact information goes to who is responsible for the captions—the content creator or the distributor. Under proposed rules, both would share responsibility and have to coordinate on resolving consumer complaints. Currently proposed rules also allow the distributor—TV station, cable operator, satellite TV provider—to rely on compliance certification provided by the program supplier. The commission is asking if that should not be allowed.

The commission’s closed captioning docket—05-231—goes back nine years. The passed rules in February include multiple orders, ruling and proposals that extend closed captioning to the Internet and attempt to improve the overall quality of closed captions. Accordingly, as of Jan. 15, 2015, captions must be:

— Accurate: Captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue and convey background noises and other sounds to the fullest extent possible.
— Synchronous: Captions must coincide with their corresponding spoken words and sounds to the greatest extent possible and must be displayed on the screen at a speed that can be read by viewers.
— Complete: Captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program to the fullest extent possible.
— Properly placed: Captions should not block other important visual content on the screen, overlap one another, run off the edge of the video screen, or be blocked by other information.

Further deadlines include Jan. 1, 2016, for captioning video clips lifted straight from a program and posted online; Jan. 1, 2017 for clips presented as montages and July 1, 2017 for live or near-live clips such as sports or news.

August 5, 2016—
FCC Pushes Caption Deadlines
Three new deadlines looming on the horizon are pushing the professional video industry to catch up on one of the quietest technologies in our midst: closed captioning.