Online captioning rules clarified in the US

Wednesday, 17 July 2013 13:55pm

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has clarified how it will deal with requirements to caption online videos, caption quality standards, and the ability of DVD and Blu-ray players to display captions.

All of these requirements stem from the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, a landmark piece of access legislation which was passed in 2010. It requires that TV programs which have been broadcast with captions must also be captioned when made available online, but the FCC has previously stated that this applies only to “full-length programming” and not short clips. Disability groups have asked the FCC to reconsider its position on this, expressing their concern about the lack of captioning on news, education and entertainment clips which consumers are increasingly accessing online.

In its new Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC has declined to change its position on video clips until it has gathered more information, and intends to issue a public notice on this in the next six months.

Disability groups have also requested that the FCC impose quality standards on television captioning. It has declined to do so at this point, noting that caption quality will be the subject of another proceeding which is pending.

The FCC has reaffirmed the requirement for DVD and Blu-ray players to pass through closed captions, but has extended the deadline for compliance as it considers the issues involved. (In Australia, captions on DVDs and Blu-ray disks are accessed via the set-up menu on the disk, but this is not always the case with DVDs in the US, and Blu-ray disks there contain subtitles but not closed captions.)

In a commentary on the new order and proposed rules, the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology says that the FCC has “kicked the can down the road” by postponing a decision on the captioning of video clips.

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