FCC updates closed captioning rules for Internet video

August 7, 2013 - 3:14pm
New closed captioning regulations are aimed at making video on Internet-connected devices more accessible.

Closed captioning has long been a staple of video broadcast systems, but new regulations issued by the FCC aim to make closed captioning mandatory for Internet videos that feature broadcast footage. Their rulings on text display will likely have many far-reaching implications for broadcasters, software providers and device makers involved in the multichannel distribution market.

In June, the FCC released a report, "Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking," which served to provide clarification to 2010 rulings on video and communications accessibility. The former rules, which came to effect in September 2012, primarily targeted full-length TV programming, according to TV Technology contributor John Merli. Although this standard certainly created some extra legwork for broadcasters on the backend, it was relatively easy to transition full-length broadcast programming from its satellite signal to an IP device.

The new ruling adds a provision that requires all pre-recorded video content that is "substantially edited" for viewing on websites to be captioned if the programming had captions in its original television broadcast, Merli reported. The current situation, in which much of the significantly edited video programming on the Internet appears in in "highlights" form, essentially restricts access of those whose medical disability would prevent them from engaging with the content. There are some exemptions: DSLR cameras were found to have "incidental" video viewing capabilities and are excluded from the new rulings, while many TV "clips" and outtakes won't be required to come with closed captioning.

Video transport complications could affect device rollout, optimization
Optimizing closed-captioned content for Internet usage, however, could mean delays in putting programming online. For broadcasters, it would mean an extra step of editing closed captioning to fit with the video clips, and for software and device providers, it could pose a host of compatibility issues. Although the deadline for manufactured devices to be able process closed captioning does not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2014, Merli reported, devices don't have to be commercially available by that date. However, some industry professionals said that the array of Internet video formats will pose issues.

"Unlike broadcast video, where every station transmits the same ATSC spec and every consumer TV set can display the closed captions carried in ATSC video, the Web is like the 'Wild Wild West' of video formats," stated Jason Livingston, project manager and developer at closed-caption software firm CPC.

Closed captioning data is highly at risk of being lost in the process of transmission unless broadcasters use the right tools. A modular receiver decoder, for example, can convert network and live feeds to fit different OTT formats for IP delivery with closed captioning intact. 

Video Transcoding