Ten Years After Advocates Ask, FCC Issues Closed Captioning Quality Rules

On February 20, 2014, the FCC released an Order that defines the components necessary for high quality closed captions on television.  These new standards apply to television that is pre-recorded, live, and near-live programming and identifies best practices for video programmers, captioning vendors, and captioners.  The new standards say what is meant by fully accessible closed captioning of television programs -- commonsense requirements not included in the original captioning order issued seventeen years ago in 1997. Concerned greatly by the errors in captioning that made them essentially unintelligible (when not completely missing!) to many viewers with disabilities, advocates first filed a petition in regard to quality of closed captioning in 2004. Now, ten years and several reviews later, here is what the FCC has come up with as new standards:

  • Must accurately convey dialogue and sounds in the program;

  • Must run from the beginning to the end of the program;

  • Must be timed so that they generally do not lag far behind the program’s dialogue;

  • Must appear at a speed that viewers can read;
  • Must be placed so they do not block other important information on the screen;

  • Local news programs that are not captioned in real-time must have pre-scripting of sports, weather, and most late-breaking stories;

  • Crawls and other visual information be used if pre-scripting is not possible;.

Also, video programming distributors -- cable and satellite TV companies and TV broadcasters -- must get certification from video programming providers of (1) their compliance with the new captioning quality standards, (2) that they adhere to the new Best Practices or (3) don't have to provide captions under the allowable exemptions. The FCC also affirmed and made explicit that TV distributors are responsible for ensuring they keep their captioning equipment working properly via routine technical checks, as they pass through the captioning provided by programmers, to avoid loss of captions or sending through gibberish. The FCC did not adopt a base forfeiture amount for violations of the rules.  The FCC did require that petitions for exemption from the captioning requirements be filed electronically.

The new rules will be evaluated again one year after the they go into effect. Also, this Report and Order includes a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) that seeks comment on captioning responsibilities, and on other ways to improve access to television programming.  The dates of the comment and reply comment period for this next round of closed captioning quality will be announced later. Links to the Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:

Word version here.    PDF version here.   Text version here. For more information about Closed Captioning for Television, visit the FCC website.

COMPLAINTS: To complain about bad or no captioning on television program, file a complaint with the FCC, information here.




NO CAPTIONS On Long Island ,

NO CAPTIONS On Long Island , NY, Cablevision Channel 14/ 714, MSGVarsity, ALL Access Channel (name is a joke)///NO CAPTIONS. Do the new Rules for hardship or exemptions apply to this subsiderary of a HUGE conglomerate of Madsion Square Garden/ Rainbow Media/ Cablevison Systems Corp?

Seems like you have a

Seems like you have a complaint. Click on the link in the story above for the form to make an online complaint at the Fed Comms Commission who can look into it. Good luck with this!

yes, the new (and old!) rules

yes, the new (and old!) rules apply to Cablevision Systems Corp who is a distributor of television programming. Any complaint would be filed against them (the distributor is responsible to ensure there is captions displayed). Filel using online form in story above.


COMMENT DUE DATES & RULES EFFECTIVENESS DATES: Public Comment Due Dates:  There are two sets of deadlines for public comments on the recent FCC proposals to improve television closed captioning quality standards:

For Section on Responsibilities for Meeting the Closed Captioning Requirements: Comments are due by April 28, 2014 with Reply Comments due by May 27, 2014.

For Remaining Sections such as Minimum Captioning Quality Standards and Compliance: Comments are due by June 25, 2014 with Reply Comments due by July 25, 2014.

Effective Dates for New Rules:  The new rules relating to equipment monitoring and electronic filing of exemption requests will become effective on April 30, 2014.  New rules relating to the Use of ‘‘Electronic Newsroom Technique’’ will become effective on June 30, 2014.  The new standards and rules for ensuring quality closed captioning will become effective on January 15, 2015.

Links to the Public Notice:  http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-14-456A1.docx



Links to the Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:

Word: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-14-12A1.doc

PDF: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-14-12A1.pdf

Text: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-14-12A1.txt

For further information, contact Eliot Greenwald, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Disability Rights Office, 202-418-2235 or email Eliot.Greenwald@fcc.gov.