We see closed captioning, mostly on our televisions. But regardless, many people still do not understand the importance or purpose of this feature.

It is a way to allow people with hearing loss problems, to follow along with what is being said on the TV.

Learning about What is Closed Captioning

The FCC has rules that govern closed captioning on television. However, this stems from the stipulations given by Congress. It applies to multi-channel video programming distributors, satellite distributors, broadcasters and cable operators.

Generally, they are all known as video programming distributors (VPDs).

They must provide a means for a receiver to decode information, news or entertainment content, shown on a television so that it does not exclude people who suffer varying degrees of hearing loss.

What Is a Caption

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a caption is “a title or brief explanation appended to an article, illustration, cartoon or poster.”

However, when it comes to television, it is referred to in a different way.

What Does Closed Caption Mean

The Merriam Webster dictionary, defines closed caption as a “broadcast with captions that appear only on the screen of a receiver equipped with a decoder.”

What Does the Federal Communications Commission Say about Closed Captioning

Because of the rules stipulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) people who suffer from hearing loss or who are deaf can still enjoy television programming.

The FCC, according to their website, have “rules for TV closed captioning to ensure that viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing have full access to programming, address captioning quality and provide guidance to video programming distributors and programmers.”

These rules can be considered to fall under four main categories.

1. Any Closed Captioning Used Must Be Accurate

It is imperative that the words spoken on any program be accurate. It must match the dialogue, verbatim. Even to the point where they also identify any and every background noise, as much as possible.

2. Any Closed Captioning Used Must Be Synchronous

The closed caption shown on any program ought to be consistent with related sounds and spoken words on the program shown. This cannot be shown hurriedly on the screen. But it must match the pace that general readers can follow.

3. Any Closed Captioning Used Must Be Complete

Any program having only occasional use of closed captioning is going against this rule. The captions must show from the start to the ending of every program.

4. Any Closed Captioning Used Must Be Properly Placed

When used closed captioning should never hamper the direct viewing of whatever visual element is shown on the television. Neither should it be placed over or under another caption previously being displayed. The caption must not run off screen also.

However, the FCC rules do continue to ‘distinguish between pre-recorded, live, and near-live programming and explain how the standards apply to each type of programming, recognizing the greater hurdles involved with captioning live and near-live programming.”

What Programs Are Exempt from Closed Captioning

It is important to also note, “The FCC does not regulate captioning of home videos, DVDs or video games.”

At the moment, there are two types of exclusions from the rules of closed captioning. These are those times when doing so is “self-implementing and economically burdensome.”

The former refers to programs that are considered “public service announcements shorter than 10 minutes and not paid for with federal dollars, programming shown from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. and programming primarily textual. There is also an exemption for locally produced non-news programming with no repeat value. “

You can visit their website for a complete list of self-implementing exemptions.

The FCC put guidelines in place enquiring and challenging an exclusion from the closed captioning rules once doing so would be economically burdensome.

You can visit their website for the specific economically burdensome exemptions.

A Final Word

If you fall under the FCC rules in anyway, even though there are exemptions, other federal laws might exist for multi-channel video programming distributors, satellite distributors, broadcasters, and cable operators.

So ensure that you always devise a way to accommodate people with disabilities including hearing loss.

With today’s propulsion towards technological advancement. It is not difficult to do so.

It is safer to comply with the rules, rather than ignore them. The fees can be so hefty that it is disastrous to your business budget. Plus, you will run the risk of affecting the brand reputation of your company.

By and large, closed captioning is used widely across the telecommunications industry, with comparably minimal infractions. Those who do break the rules are treated with extreme prejudice. Because there is no place for discrimination in such a world that might be considered an ‘essential service.”

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