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FCC Releases Rules to Improve Closed Captioning

February 2014 — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Report and Order (R&O) and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FRPRM) In the Matter of Closed Captioning of Video Programming [CG Docket No. 05-231].  The R&O adopts new rules in accordance with Section 713 of the Communications Act to enhance the quality of closed captioning, including new standards to ensure that captions are accurate and synchronous in portraying the spoken words and background noises, are present for the whole program, and are placed in such a way that they do not block important visual content.  Also adopted are rules which require broadcasters “who utilize Electronic Newsroom Technique (ENT)” to ensure that all news scripted for the teleprompter is also captioned. In order to ensure technical compliance of the rules, the R&O specifies that video programming distributors must “monitor and maintain their equipment,” in addition to keeping records of any “maintenance, monitoring and technical checks of their captioning equipment.” 

In the FNPRM, the FCC seeks comment on additional factors to further enhance “accessibility of television programming.”  Specifically, the FCC seeks comment on whether metrics should be established to measure the completeness of live and near-live captioning and if specific time intervals should be established for equipment checks. Regarding consumer complaints, the FCC seeks comment on methods to improve complaint handling and proposes a “public dashboard containing information about captioning complaints.” Finally, the FCC is requesting comments on the level of compliance regarding technical standards of captions and whether consumers have had any issues with recent “on-screen visual changes or textual depictions.” Comments for Section VI.A of the FNPRM are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and comments for the remaining sections are due 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under grant number 90RE5007-01-00. The opinions contained in this website are those of the Wireless RERC and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or NIDILRR.