Monday, January 15, 2018

The Closed Captioning rules for U.S. TV

2015 - The FCC sets “quality” standards for captioning by TV broadcasters focusing on: Accuracy, synchronicity (timing with the words being captioned), completeness (from the start of a program to the end), and placement (the captions shouldn't obscure other important information). More info here.

2016 - A new set of rules related to captioning by TV broadcasters kicks in: The FCC divides responsibility for closed captioning compliance between distributors and programmers. The Commission also identifies the proper methods for measuring closed captioning compliance and responding to consumer complaints.

Waivers - The FCC has made exceptions to the rules when the broadcaster shows captioning would cause an “undue economic burden” standard. Consumer groups have opposed the waiver requests. Some requests from churches and other organizations have been denied, mostly because a review of the group's financies shows they indeed have the funds to provide captioning and simply don't want to do so. The FCC also says captioning is not a religious freedom issue, as some have claimed.

Other FCC decisions of note:
—The FCC says TV stations captioning their news by using the telepropter text (or from news scripts) is not adequate by itself. If this method of captioning is used, known as Electronic Newsroom Technique, the station must have a designated “ENT coordinator" whose responisibility it is to make sure this service is properly conducted. There's more information here. —Live interviews and breaking news segments should include "crawls" at the bottom of the screen or other information through text. —Closed captioning must be provided for video over the internet if the programming was shown on TV in the US with captions. If the programming was aired on TV before 2013, it may be exempt until it is shown on TV again. —If an old program is shown on TV, the distributor and TV station are required to provide captions within 15 days. —Video clips, outtakes and montages of captioned TV programming posted online must be captioned. —Live programming must be captioned within 12 hours if posted online. Nearly live material must be captioned within eight hours of the conclusion of the program.

For more information, a Washington broadcast-focused law firm has links to helpful posts here.

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