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FCC Addresses Closed Captioning Accuracy

What does the FCC Report and Order (CG docket No. 05-231) mean when it states that closed captioning needs to be accurate? Hasn’t this always been a requirement? Well, not exactly. Previously, there were regulations simply stating that closed captioning was required. However, without addressing quality, closed captioning varied in regards to accuracy. Even without closed captioning accuracy regulations enforced from 2009 to 2013, the Commission received 2,323 viewer complaints on general closed captioning issues. A dubious representation of the actual problem since, until now, there really was no motivation for the viewers to voice their concerns.

In a few weeks, all post-production closed captioning of video programming must be captioned by an offline caption editor. This offline or post-production captioner is trained on various captioning rules, such as correct punctuation and spelling, synchronicity, caption placement, reading speed, etc. In the past, a live captioning style (writing with a steno machine and paraphrasing the spoken word) could be used for post-produced programs even though they were not actually airing in a live format. However, come January 15, 2015 (Update: FCC Pushes Back the Date on New Captioning Quality Standards), this will no longer be acceptable.

According to the report, closed captioning must now be verbatim. This means closed captioning must match the spoken words precisely; paraphrasing is not an option. If a song with lyrics is playing in the program, those lyrics must be captioned. All nonverbal information such as sound effects, audience reactions, speaker identification, and background noise relevant to the meaning of the program will also be captioned.

Don’t risk uncertainty and gamble on the possibility of rejected content, contact one of the experts at Aberdeen Broadcast Services. For more information on FCC closed captioning laws, visit: eCFR – Code of Federal Regulations. Or to read the full report submitted in February of 2014, get comfortable and check out: Closed Captioning Quality Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling, FNPRM.

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