New caption quality rules take effect in the US

Monday, 16 March 2015 16:19pm

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has introduced new quality rules for closed captions on television which come into effect in the US on 16 March 2015.

Left hand pointing remote control towards TV. Image credit: flash.pro via Flickr

Under the new rules, TV broadcasters and other video programming distributors (VPDs) must ensure that captions meet quality standards in the following areas:

  • Accuracy: captions must match program dialogue, be correctly spelled and punctuated, and provide essential non-verbal information.
  • Synchronicity: Captions must coincide as closely as possible with the audio.
  • Completeness: The entire program should be captioned.
  • Placement: Captions should be viewable, not block other important on-screen information, and be the appropriate size for legibility.

The FCC acknowledges that the above standards will not always be achievable for live and near-live programs, and that there will be delays in live captions, but expects broadcasters to do everything they can to help facilitate the captioning process.

Broadcasters and VPDs must also keep records of their caption monitoring and equipment maintenance activities for a minimum of two years, and submit these to the FCC upon request.

This is the first time that the FCC has imposed rules about caption quality, and follows years of lobbying by Deaf and hearing impaired viewers and their advocacy groups. The rules are similar to those put in place in Australia through the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Television Caption Quality Standard.

On 17 March, the first meeting of the FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee will take place. Its role is to “provide advice and recommendations to the Commission on a wide array of disability matters within the jurisdiction of the Commission and facilitate the participation of people with disabilities in proceedings before the Commission”. The meeting will be available to watch as a live webcast with closed captioning.


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