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FCC Regulations

Closed Captioning on Television

FCC closed captioning rules

FCC rules for TV closed captioning 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. The rules apply to all television programming with captions, requiring that captions be:

  • Accurate: Captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue and convey backgroundnoises and other sounds to the fullest extent possible.
  • Synchronous: Captions must coincide with their corresponding spoken words and sounds to thegreatest extent possible and must be displayed on the screen at a speed that can be read byviewers.
  • Complete: Captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program to the fullest extentpossible.
  • Properly placed: Captions should not block other important visual content on the screen, overlapone another or run off the edge of the video screen.

The rules 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.
(The FCC does not regulate captioning of home videos, DVDs or video games.)

Closed Captioning of Internet Video Programming

Video programming rules

  • The Internet closed captioning rules only apply if the video programming was shown on TV in the U.S. with captions.
  • “Full-length video programming” is video programming that is shown on TV and is distributed to end users, substantially in its entirety, through the Internet.
  • “Video clips” are excerpts of full-length video programming that are posted online. The rules require video programming distributors that show programming on TV to post captioned clips of their programming on their own websites or applications (“apps”). At this time, the video clips rules do not apply to third party websites or apps.
  • Consumer-generated media (e.g., home videos) shown on the Internet are not required to be captioned, unless they were shown on TV with captions.
  • Movies shown on the Internet are not required to be captioned unless they have been previously shown on TV with captions.

Implementation schedule for captioning internet video programming

The following deadlines apply to video programming that is not in a distributor’s Internet online library before it is shown on TV with captions.

Full-length internet video programming

Full-length Internet video programming must be captioned if the programming is shown on TV in the U.S. with captions on or after the following dates:

  • September 30, 2012, for prerecorded programming that is not “edited for Internet distribution.” “Edited for Internet distribution” means the TV version has been substantially edited. Examples of substantial edits are deleting scenes or altering musical scores. Changing the number or duration of commercials is not considered substantial editing.
  • March 30, 2013, for live and near-live programming.
    • “Live programming” is defined as programming that is shown on TV substantially simultaneously with its performance.
    • “Near-live programming” is defined as programming that is performed and recorded less than 24 hours before it was first shown on TV.
  • September 30, 2013, for prerecorded programming that is substantially edited for Internet distribution.

Internet video clips

Internet video clips must be captioned if the associated programming is shown on TV in the U.S. with captions on or after the following dates:

  • January 1, 2016, where the video clip contains a single excerpt of a captioned TV program with the same video and audio that was shown on TV (“straight lift” clips).
  • January 1, 2017, where a single file contains multiple straight lift video clips (“montages”).
  • July 1, 2017, for video clips of live and near-live TV programming (such as news or sporting events).
    • For clips of live programming, up to a 12-hour delay is permitted in posting a captioned clip after the programming has been shown on TV.
    • For clips of near-live programming, up to an 8-hour delay is permitted in posting a captioned clip after the programming has been shown on TV.

Archival internet video programming

The following deadlines apply to video programming that a distributor already shows on the Internet. Distributors have extra time to add captions to video programming that they already show on the Internet and that is later shown on TV with captions, as follows:

  • Within 45 days after the date it is shown on TV with captions on or after March 30, 2014 and before March 30, 2015;
  • Within 30 days after the date it is shown on TV with captions on or after March 30, 2015 and before March 30, 2016; and
  • Within 15 days after the date it is shown on TV with captions on or after March 30, 2016.

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