Save the Date: FCC Internet Captioning Deadline Coming Up

Posted by: Staff Writer on May 23, 2012

Are you tired of being left out from all the video programming offered on the Internet? You’re not alone. With over 35 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the U.S., the mostly un-captioned state of the Web is a source of frustration for many.

But beginning this fall, deaf and hard of hearing viewers can finally enjoy captioned Internet video. That’s when the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), which was signed by President Obama, will begin to take effect. Very deaf-friendly move on your part, President Obama!

Bowing to pressure from the National Association for the Deaf (NAD), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finally ruled video programming shown on the Internet (within 45 days after being shown on television) must have captions based on the following schedule:

September 30, 2012: Prerecorded programming that is not edited for Internet distribution. Examples: Television drama series, Family Guy, shows on the Discovery Channel, and so on.

March 30, 2013: Live and near-live programming recorded within 24 hours of broadcast on television; Examples are the Academy Awards, local weather forecasts, and Seahawks games. Near-live examples: The Tonight Show and "Late Night Show with Conan O'Brien”.

September 30, 2013: Prerecorded programming that is edited for Internet distribution. Examples: Deleted scenes, bloopers, or changes to musical scores (changes to TV advertisements not included).

Internet captioning is the latest of many hard-won milestones for deaf and hard of hearing audiences in America. Why, and how, do these victories come about? Because organizations (like NAD) and individuals whom stood up for their rights and paid attention to FCC “Take Action” features like this:

... and because stars like Marlee Matlin have tweeted, urging 10,000 followers to pressure Netflix to bring captioning back:

It's also because of you, you, and you – all your actions, comments, and complaints combined have a powerful effect on companies and policies that would otherwise remain in the Dark Ages. It’s all part of creating a more accessible world for ourselves and those we love.

What does the FCC ruling mean for you, dear viewers?

  • Not having to ask hearing friends, co-workers or family to transcribe funny viral videos for you
  • Being able to watch your favorite shows - like Glee or Switched at Birth – captioned on video hosting sites like Hulu or Netflix
  • More accurate captions, compared to the current speech-to-text transcription or speech recognition software available on some internet videos
  • Captions on ALL kinds of IP distribution devices, including mobile smartphone apps, websites, DVD players and gaming consoles (Source: www.closedcaptioning.net)
  • Quick turnaround between the time a show is broadcast on television, and distributed with captions on the Internet: 45 days. In four years, mandated time will be even faster: 15 days

However, there are a few things that will remain uncaptioned. According to a corporate blog for VITAC (one of the largest U.S. closed captioning and media access companies):

Notably exempt from this list are "clips" or short form programming usually posted on program providers' websites. Examples of exempt clips include individual news stories on CNN.com, outtakes of your favorite TV show, and pre-show interviews with reality contestants."

Still, Internet captioning is a watershed victory - and it’s not just the deaf and hard of hearing who think so.

Ironically, hearing friends and family may rely on the “CC” button, too.  Sometimes they can’t understand thick accents in British movies. Sometimes they need to mute their laptop so they don’t disturb roommates at night. Other hearing people may have auditory dyslexia (which means that even though they can hear, the words blur together). Lastly, hearing people struggling to remember awesome quotes from their favorite show, like House, can use Hulu’s Search Caption feature:

These are all examples where hearing people can benefit from Internet captioning as well.

Do you remember the shows you watched in 1993? Most likely, they included popular shows like Seinfield, Home Improvement, Roseanne, Frasier and 60 Minutes. That year, the FCC required all U.S.-manufactured analog television receivers with +13 inches screens to be CC-compatible. In 2002, the FCC also required captioning for digital television (DTV) receivers; in 2010, Spanish shows were required to be captioned.

Now, it’s 2012, and with the new internet requirements, the future of captioning has never looked so bright!  We want to take this moment to THANK all of those people and organizations who go to fight for the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing community. Our access to the world would not be the same without you!

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