FCC Approves New Closed Captioning Rules

In February, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved new rules for TV and video closed captioning, clarified existing rules, and sought additional comments regarding several closed captioning issues. The commission has published these guidelines to increase captioning quality and accessibility for those with hearing impairments in two documents – a Report and Order and a Declaratory Ruling. A third document, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FC 14-12), invites comments on additional captioning issues.

According to the FCC’s February 20, 2014, news release the Order requires television programming captions be:

  • accurate
  • synchronous
  • complete
  • properly placed

In addition, the Order addresses the following areas, according to the news release:

  • distinctions of live versus recorded programming and application of the new standards to that programming
  • best practices for video programmers and captioning vendors
  • increasing news programming access to consumers

The news release describes the Declaratory Ruling as “clarifying existing rules defining requirements for ‘on-demand’ programming, bilingual English and Spanish programming, obligations of low power television stations, and video programming distributor contact information.”

And finally, the new release indicates the commission, through its Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, seeks comments in areas including who should be responsible for programming captioning and additional ways to improve and enhance programming accessibility.

As Chairman Tom Wheeler expressed his thanks (in a Statement on Closed Captioning during a February 2014 open meeting) to those who worked on this project to increase programming accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, he applauded these new rules “as a set of rules that moves us toward improving captioning quality, while also assuring that vital news and other types of programming provide captioning.” And while he recognizes in his statement that this is an ongoing process, he also feels that this is a long-awaited step on the right direction. “I am excited and hopeful for the future as we continue to take steps to advance this mission,” Wheeler said in his statement.

Commissioners Michael O’Reilly, Ajit Pai, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Mignon L. Clyburn also
have published statements on this issue, vote, and decision. The chairman and comissioners’
statements can be found online, as well as the FCC news release “FCC Moves to Upgrade TV
Closed Captioning Quality,” and television closed captioning guidelines.