FCC Closed Captioning Standards and Exemptions for Television

FCC Closed Captioning Standards and Exemptions for Television

If you’re in television, you’re impacted by FCC closed captioning standards and requirements for television established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) through a ruling passed in 2014. The specific FCC closed captioning requirements necessitated by the FCC aim to “ensure that viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing have full access to programming,” and fall into four categories of captioning requirements:

  1. Accuracy:“Captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue and convey background noises and other sounds to the fullest extent possible.”
  2. Synchronicity:“Captions must coincide with their corresponding spoken words and sounds to the greatest extent possible and must be displayed on the screen at a speed that can be read by viewers.”
  3. Completeness:“Captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program to the fullest extent possible.”
  4. Proper Placement:“Captions should not block other important visual content on the screen, overlap one another or run off the edge of the video screen.”

The FCC closed captioning requirements distinguish between video content that has been pre-recorded, run live, or “near live” programming. They do not regulate home videos, DVDs or video games.

FCC Closed Captioning Standards and Exemptions for Television

FCC closed captioning standardsThere are, however, exemptions to these closed captioning requirements that release television producers from having to caption their video content under the FCC. This does not remove responsibility under federal law, an important distinction.

These closed captioning exemptions fall into two categories: self-implementing exemptions and economically burdensome exemptions.

Self-implementing exemptions include 13 different instances under which, if video producer meets any single one of them or more, they are exempt from FCC closed captioning requirements. Some of these include:

  • public service announcements that are shorter than 10 minutes and not paid for with federal dollars
  • programming shown between 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
  • programming that is primarily textual
  • programming in a language other than English or Spanish
  • programming on networks in operation for less than four years

Economically burdensome exemptions release video producers from the closed captioning requirements when “compliance with the rules would be economically burdensome.” Exemptions can be given in whole or in part for either an entire channel of video programming, a category or type of video programming, an individual video service, a specific video program, or a video programming provider. Petitions must be submitted for these exemptions and supported by sufficient evidence to demonstrate economic burden. This evidence includes:

  • the nature and cost of the closed captions;
  • the impact of closed captioning to operations;
  • the financial resources of the programmer;
  • the type of program operations of the provider.

It’s important for television producers to understand the regulations and exemptions as you plan your video captioning and transcription strategy. You can also read our blog on “How to Meet FCC Captioning Requirements”– which covers requirements for both TV and Internet.

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