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New FCC Closed Captioning Laws to Focus on Quality


The deadline of January 15, 2015 (Update: FCC Pushes Back the Date on New Captioning Quality Standards) is quickly approaching as the FCC closed captioning laws will begin weighing in on some much needed quality issues. Aberdeen Broadcast Services is here to help break down the new FCC Report and Order that was released earlier this year (CG docket No. 05-231) into easy-to-understand and concise guidelines. Our goal is to help producers enter the New Year confident that their programs are in compliance with the new FCC closed captioning requirements.

The FCC issued its first set of closed captioning requirements over sixteen years ago in order to provide telecommunications for the deaf and hard of hearing. The objective was to ensure that all Americans have access to video programming. Mandating that programs had closed captions was a great start at accessibility, but quality control was the next step as the original rules were fairly basic--closed captioning needed to be present on the screen. Now, the FCC has adopted captioning quality standards and technical compliance rules to certify that the quality of captions best replicate the experience of television programs for all audiences.

Quality closed captioning is the result of teamwork and compliance between video programmers and captioning vendors. The Commission offers a list of operational best practices to be followed to ensure the highest level of closed captioning is obtained. These suggestions include providing vendors with advance scripts, proper names, song lyrics, as well as quality audio on their videos. Pre-recorded shows should be captioned by offline captioners and spot-checked before and during broadcast to ensure there are no closed captioning issues.

Closed captioning vendors are also provided a list of best practices to follow to ensure captioning is verbatim and free of errors. The new quality standards focus on four key areas: accuracy, synchronization, completeness, and placement. A basic overview of these areas is as follows:

  • Closed captioning must match the spoken words in the original language without paraphrasing. Song lyrics and nonverbal information, such as the identity of the speaker and any sound effects or audience reactions present in the program, will be captioned.
  • Captions need to be accurately synchronized to match the video and audio content displayed at a readable speed.
  • Captions are required to be complete and present through the full length of the program.
  • Lastly, proper placement dictates that captions cannot block important visual content such as speaker’s faces and any graphics or text on the screen.

Don’t risk uncertainty and gamble on the possibility of rejected content, contact one of the experts at Aberdeen Broadcast Services. For more information on FCC closed captioning laws, visit: eCFR – Code of Federal Regulations. Or to read the full report submitted in February of 2014, get comfortable and check out: Closed Captioning Quality Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling, FNPRM.