January 18, 2017 By Ryan Hawthorne

FCC Captioning Quality Improvements

Closed captioning was designed to make video programming accessible for deaf and hard of hearing viewers. Sadly, the inconsistent quality of some closed captioning hinders the benefit to the viewers that need it most. Issues such as spelling errors, improper timing, and poor placement of the captions make it difficult for viewers to follow what is happening and being said onscreen.

Although television programmers have been required to provide closed captioning since 1997, there has been a glaring lack of enforced quality standards. Many television producers view the cost of closed captioning as a tax by the government rather than a way to include all of their potential audience in the viewing experience. Viewing closed captioning primarily as a “burden” means that producers are often not inclined to push for better quality.

Now, the Federal Communications Commission is directly addressing the issue of quality. The FCC unanimously voted to adopt new standards for closed captioning on television programming. The new rules are meant to ensure the best efforts of video programming distributors to improve closed captioning quality.

The new standards focus on quality improvement to post-produced closed captioning in four specific areas:

ACCURACY: Captions must identify the speakers and reflect the dialogue, sounds, and music of the programming.

SYNCHRONICITY: Captions must coincide with the corresponding programming and appear at a readable speed for viewers.

COMPLETENESS: Captions must run for the entirety of the program.

PLACEMENT: Captions must not obscure essential on-screen information.

With improvements to these four areas, the FCC believes that video programming will be “fully accessible to people who are deaf and hard of hearing through the provision of closed captions, and that these standards will ensure that the visual information received through captions is consistent with the information provided through the audio track of the programming.” The rule revisions for captioning quality standards and best practices will take effect on January 15, 2015, or following the approval by Office of Management and Budget, whichever is later. To read the full Closed Captioning Quality Report and Order from the FCC, click here.

Ryan Hawthorne

Ryan is the Operations Manager and the reason we can brag about the quality of our captions. He isn’t shy of high standards or quick turnarounds. He makes sure your project looks perfect every step of the way. When Ryan isn’t captioning, he’s spending time with his family as a new father.

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