Goto Section: 79.1 | 79.2 | Table of Contents
Revised as of October 2, 2015
Goto Year:2014 |
§ 79.1 Closed captioning of televised video programming.
(a) Definitions. For purposes of this section the following definitions
(1) Captioning vendor. Any entity that is responsible for providing
captioning services to a video programmer.
(2) Closed captioning, or captioning. The visual display of the audio
portion of video programming pursuant to the technical specifications set
forth in this part.
(3) Live programming. Video programming that is shown on television
substantially simultaneously with its performance.
(4) Near-live programming. Video programming that is performed and recorded
less than 24 hours prior to the time it is first aired on television.
(5) New programming. Video programming that is first published or exhibited
on or after January 1, 1998.
(i) Analog video programming that is first published or exhibited on or
after January 1, 1998.
(ii) Digital video programming that is first published or exhibited on or
after July 1, 2002.
(6) Non-exempt programming. Video programming that is not exempt under
paragraph (d) of this section and, accordingly, is subject to closed
captioning requirements set forth in this section.
(7) Prerecorded programming. Video programming that is not “live” or
(8) Pre-rule programming. (i) Analog video programming that was first
published or exhibited before January 1, 1998.
(ii) Digital video programming that was first published or exhibited before
July 1, 2002.
(9) Video programmer. Any entity that provides video programming that is
intended for distribution to residential households including, but not
limited to, broadcast or nonbroadcast television networks and the owners of
(10) Video programming. Programming provided by, or generally considered
comparable to programming provided by, a television broadcast station that
is distributed and exhibited for residential use. Video programming includes
advertisements of more than five minutes in duration but does not include
advertisements of five minutes' duration or less.
(11) Video programming distributor. Any television broadcast station
licensed by the Commission and any multichannel video programming
distributor as defined in § 76.1000(e) of this chapter, and any other
distributor of video programming for residential reception that delivers
such programming directly to the home and is subject to the jurisdiction of
the Commission. An entity contracting for program distribution over a video
programming distributor that is itself exempt from captioning that
programming pursuant to paragraph (e)(9) of this section shall itself be
treated as a video programming distributor for purposes of this section To
the extent such video programming is not otherwise exempt from captioning,
the entity that contracts for its distribution shall be required to comply
with the closed captioning requirements of this section.
(12) Video programming provider. Any video programming distributor and any
other entity that provides video programming that is intended for
distribution to residential households including, but not limited to
broadcast or nonbroadcast television network and the owners of such
(b) Requirements for closed captioning of video programming—(1) Requirements
for new English language programming. Video programming distributors must
provide closed captioning for nonexempt video programming that is being
distributed and exhibited on each channel during each calendar quarter in
accordance with the following requirements:
(i) Between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2001, a video programming
distributor shall provide at least 450 hours of captioned video programming
or all of its new nonexempt video programming must be provided with
captions, whichever is less;
(ii) Between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2003, a video programming
distributor shall provide at least 900 hours of captioned video programming
or all of its new nonexempt video programming must be provided with
captions, whichever is less;
(iii) Between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2005, a video programming
distributor shall provide at least an average of 1350 hours of captioned
video programming or all of its new nonexempt video programming must be
provided with captions, whichever is less; and
(iv) As of January 1, 2006, and thereafter, 100% of the programming
distributor's new nonexempt video programming must be provided with
(2) Requirements for pre-rule English language programming. (i) After
January 1, 2003, 30% of the programming distributor's pre-rule nonexempt
video programming being distributed and exhibited on each channel during
each calendar quarter must be provided with closed captioning.
(ii) As of January 1, 2008, and thereafter, 75% of the programming
distributor's pre-rule nonexempt video programming being distributed and
exhibited on each channel during each calendar quarter must be provided with
(3) Requirements for new Spanish language programming. Video programming
distributors must provide closed captioning for nonexempt Spanish language
video programming that is being distributed and exhibited on each channel
during each calendar quarter in accordance with the following requirements:
(i) Between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2003, a video programming
distributor shall provide at least 450 hours of captioned Spanish language
video programming or all of its new nonexempt Spanish language video
programming must be provided with captions, whichever is less;
(ii) Between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2006, a video programming
distributor shall provide at least 900 hours of captioned Spanish language
video programming or all of its new nonexempt Spanish language video
programming must be provided with captions, whichever is less;
(iii) Between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2009, a video programming
distributor shall provide at least an average of 1350 hours of captioned
Spanish language video programming or all of its new nonexempt Spanish
language video programming must be provided with captions, whichever is
(iv) As of January 1, 2010, and thereafter, 100% of the programming
distributor's new nonexempt Spanish language video programming must be
provided with captions.
(4) Requirements for Spanish language pre-rule programming. (i) After
January 1, 2005, 30% of the programming distributor's pre-rule nonexempt
Spanish language video programming being distributed and exhibited on each
channel during each calendar quarter must be provided with closed
(ii) As of January 1, 2012, and thereafter, 75% of the programming
distributor's pre-rule nonexempt Spanish language video programming being
distributed and exhibited on each channel during each calendar quarter must
be provided with closed captioning.
(5) Video programming distributors shall continue to provide captioned video
programming at substantially the same level as the average level of
captioning that they provided during the first six (6) months of 1997 even
if that amount of captioning exceeds the requirements otherwise set forth in
(c) Obligation to pass through captions of already captioned programs;
obligation to maintain equipment and monitor for captions. (1) All video
programming distributors shall deliver all programming received from the
video programming owner or other origination source containing closed
captioning to receiving television households with the original closed
captioning data intact in a format that can be recovered and displayed by
decoders meeting the standards of this part unless such programming is
recaptioned or the captions are reformatted by the programming distributor.
(2) Video programming distributors shall take any steps needed to monitor
and maintain their equipment and signal transmissions associated with the
transmission and distribution of closed captioning to ensure that the
captioning included with video programming reaches the consumer intact. In
any enforcement proceeding involving equipment failure, the Commission will
require video programming distributors to demonstrate that they have
monitored their equipment and signal transmissions, have performed technical
equipment checks, and have promptly undertaken repairs as needed to ensure
that equipment is operational and in good working order.
(3) Each video programming distributor shall maintain records of the video
programming distributor's monitoring and maintenance activities, which shall
include, without limitation, information about the video programming
distributor's monitoring and maintenance of equipment and signal
transmissions to ensure the pass through and delivery of closed captioning
to viewers, and technical equipment checks and other activities to ensure
that captioning equipment and other related equipment are maintained in good
working order. Each video programming distributor shall maintain such
records for a minimum of two years and shall submit such records to the
Commission upon request.
(d) Exempt programs and providers. For purposes of determining compliance
with this section, any video programming or video programming provider that
meets one or more of the following criteria shall be exempt to the extent
specified in this paragraph.
(1) Programming subject to contractual captioning restrictions. Video
programming that is subject to a contract in effect on or before February 8,
1996, but not any extension or renewal of such contract, for which an
obligation to provide closed captioning would constitute a breach of
(2) Video programming or video programming provider for which the captioning
requirement has been waived. Any video programming or video programming
provider for which the Commission has determined that a requirement for
closed captioning is economically burdensome on the basis of a petition for
exemption filed in accordance with the procedures specified in paragraph (f)
of this section.
(3) Programming other than English or Spanish language. All programming for
which the audio is in a language other than English or Spanish, except that
scripted programming that can be captioned using the “electronic news
room” technique is not exempt.
(4) Primarily textual programming. Video programming or portions of video
programming for which the content of the soundtrack is displayed visually
through text or graphics (e.g., program schedule channels or community
(5) Programming distributed in the late night hours. Programming that is
being distributed to residential households between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. local
time. Video programming distributors providing a channel that consists of a
service that is distributed and exhibited for viewing in more than a single
time zone shall be exempt from closed captioning that service for any
continuous 4 hour time period they may select, commencing not earlier than
12 a.m. local time and ending not later than 7 a.m. local time in any
location where that service is intended for viewing. This exemption is to be
determined based on the primary reception locations and remains applicable
even if the transmission is accessible and distributed or exhibited in other
time zones on a secondary basis. Video programming distributors providing
service outside of the 48 contiguous states may treat as exempt programming
that is exempt under this paragraph when distributed in the contiguous
(6) Interstitials, promotional announcements and public service
announcements. Interstitial material, promotional announcements, and public
service announcements that are 10 minutes or less in duration.
(7) EBS programming. Video programming transmitted by an Educational
Broadband Service licensee pursuant to part 27 of this chapter.
(8) Locally produced and distributed non-news programming with no repeat
value. Programming that is locally produced by the video programming
distributor, has no repeat value, is of local public interest, is not news
programming, and for which the “electronic news room” technique of
captioning is unavailable.
(9) Programming on new networks. Programming on a video programming network
for the first four years after it begins operation, except that programming
on a video programming network that was in operation less than four (4)
years on January 1, 1998 is exempt until January 1, 2002.
(10) Primarily non-vocal musical programming. Programming that consists
primarily of non-vocal music.
(11) Captioning expense in excess of 2 percent of gross revenues. No video
programming provider shall be required to expend any money to caption any
video programming if such expenditure would exceed 2 percent of the gross
revenues received from that channel during the previous calendar year.
(12) Channels/Streams producing revenues of under $3,000,000. No video
programming provider shall be required to expend any money to caption any
channel or stream of video programming producing annual gross revenues of
less than $3,000,000 during the previous calendar year other than the
obligation to pass through video programming closed captioned when received
pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section. For the purposes of this
paragraph, each programming stream on a multicast digital television channel
shall be considered separately for purposes of the $3,000,000 revenue limit.
(13) Locally produced educational programming. Instructional programming
that is locally produced by public television stations for use in grades
K-12 and post secondary schools.
(e) Responsibility for and determination of compliance. (1) Compliance shall
be calculated on a per channel, calendar quarter basis;
(2) Open captioning or subtitles in the language of the target audience may
be used in lieu of closed captioning;
(3) The major national broadcast television networks (i.e., ABC, CBS, Fox
and NBC), affiliates of these networks in the top 25 television markets as
defined by Nielsen's Designated Market Areas (DMAs) and national
nonbroadcast networks serving at least 50% of all homes subscribing to
multichannel video programming services shall not count electronic newsroom
captioned programming towards compliance with these rules. The live portions
of noncommercial broadcasters' fundraising activities that use automated
software to create a continuous captioned message will be considered
(4) Compliance will be required with respect to the type of video
programming generally distributed to residential households. Programming
produced solely for closed circuit or private distribution is not covered by
(5) Video programming that is exempt pursuant to paragraph (d) of this
section that contains captions, except video programming exempt pursuant to
paragraph (d)(5) of this section (late night hours exemption), can count
towards the compliance with the requirements for new programming prior to
January 1, 2006. Video programming that is exempt pursuant to paragraph (d)
of this section that contains captions, except that video programming exempt
pursuant to paragraph (d)(5) of this section (late night hours exemption),
can count towards compliance with the requirements for pre-rule programming.
(6) For purposes of paragraph (d)(11) of this section, captioning expenses
include direct expenditures for captioning as well as allowable costs
specifically allocated by a programming supplier through the price of the
video programming to that video programming provider. To be an allowable
allocated cost, a programming supplier may not allocate more than 100
percent of the costs of captioning to individual video programming
providers. A programming supplier may allocate the captioning costs only
once and may use any commercially reasonable allocation method;
(7) For purposes of paragraphs (d)(11) and (d)(12) of this section, annual
gross revenues shall be calculated for each channel individually based on
revenues received in the preceding calendar year from all sources related to
the programming on that channel. Revenue for channels shared between network
and local programming shall be separately calculated for network and for
non-network programming, with neither the network nor the local video
programming provider being required to spend more than 2 percent of its
revenues for captioning. Thus, for example, compliance with respect to a
network service distributed by a multichannel video service distributor,
such as a cable operator, would be calculated based on the revenues received
by the network itself (as would the related captioning expenditure). For
local service providers such as broadcasters, advertising revenues from
station-controlled inventory would be included. For cable operators
providing local origination programming, the annual gross revenues received
for each channel will be used to determine compliance. Evidence of
compliance could include certification from the network supplier that the
requirements of the test had been met. Multichannel video programming
distributors, in calculating non-network revenues for a channel offered to
subscribers as part of a multichannel package or tier, will not include a
pro rata share of subscriber revenues, but will include all other revenues
from the channel, including advertising and ancillary revenues. Revenues for
channels supported by direct sales of products will include only the
revenues from the product sales activity (e.g., sales commissions) and not
the revenues from the actual products offered to subscribers. Evidence of
compliance could include certification from the network supplier that the
requirements of this test have been met.
(8) If two or more networks (or sources of programming) share a single
channel, that channel shall be considered to be in compliance if each of the
sources of video programming are in compliance where they are carried on a
full time basis;
(9) Video programming distributors shall not be required to provide closed
captioning for video programming that is by law not subject to their
editorial control, including but not limited to the signals of television
broadcast stations distributed pursuant to sections 614 and 615 of the
Communications Act or pursuant to the compulsory copyright licensing
provisions of sections 111 and 119 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. 111
and 119); programming involving candidates for public office covered by
sections 315 and 312 of the Communications Act and associated policies;
commercial leased access, public access, governmental and educational access
programming carried pursuant to sections 611 and 612 of the Communications
Act; video programming distributed by direct broadcast satellite (DBS)
services in compliance with the noncommercial programming requirement
pursuant to section 335(b)(3) of the Communications Act to the extent such
video programming is exempt from the editorial control of the video
programming provider; and video programming distributed by a common carrier
or that is distributed on an open video system pursuant to section 653 of
the Communications Act by an entity other than the open video system
operator. To the extent such video programming is not otherwise exempt from
captioning, the entity that contracts for its distribution shall be required
to comply with the closed captioning requirements of this section.
(10) In evaluating whether a video programming provider has complied with
the requirement that all new nonexempt video programming must include closed
captioning, the Commission will consider showings that any lack of
captioning was de minimis and reasonable under the circumstances.
(11) Use of “Electronic Newsroom Technique” (ENT). (i) A broadcast station
that uses ENT to provide closed captioning for live programming or
programming originally transmitted live and that is not subject to the
current prohibition on the use of ENT in paragraph (e)(3) of this section
shall be deemed in compliance with the Commission's rules requiring
captioning of live programming or programming originally transmitted live if
it adheres to the following procedures in the ordinary course of business:
(A) In-studio produced news, sports, weather, and entertainment programming
will be scripted.
(B) For weather interstitials where there may be multiple segments within a
news program, weather information explaining the visual information on the
screen and conveying forecast information will be scripted, although the
scripts may not precisely track the words used on air.
(C) Pre-produced programming will be scripted (to the extent technically
(D) If live interviews or live on-the scene or breaking news segments are
not scripted, stations will supplement them with crawls, textual
information, or other means (to the extent technically feasible).
(E) The station will provide training to all news staff on scripting for
(F) The station will appoint an “ENT Coordinator” accountable for
(ii) Nothing in this paragraph (e)(11) shall relieve a broadcast station of
its obligations under § 79.2 of this chapter regarding the accessibility of
programming providing emergency information.
(iii) Informal complaints. The Commission will forward an informal complaint
regarding captioning to a broadcast station that utilizes ENT to provide
captioning pursuant to the procedures set forth in paragraph (e)(11)(i) of
this section only if the informal complaint contains the television channel
number, network, or call sign, the name of the subscription service, if
relevant, the date and time of the captioning problems, the name of the
affected program, and a detailed and specific description of the captioning
problems, including the frequency and type of problem.
(iv) Compliance. (A) Initial response to pattern or trend of noncompliance.
If the Commission notifies a broadcast station that the Commission has
identified a pattern or trend of possible noncompliance by the station with
this paragraph (e)(11), the station shall respond to the Commission within
30 days regarding such possible noncompliance, describing corrective
measures taken, including those measures the station may have undertaken in
response to informal complaints and inquiries from viewers.
(B) Corrective action plan. If, after the date for a broadcast station to
respond to a notification under paragraph (e)(11)(iv)(A) of this section,
the Commission subsequently notifies the broadcast station that there is
further evidence indicating a pattern or trend of noncompliance with this
paragraph (e)(11), the broadcast station shall submit to the Commission,
within 30 days of receiving such subsequent notification, an action plan
describing specific measures it will take to bring the station's ENT
performance into compliance with this paragraph (e)(11). In addition, the
station shall be required to conduct spot checks of its ENT performance and
report to the Commission on the results of such action plan and spot checks
180 days after the submission of such action plan.
(C) Continued evidence of a pattern or trend of noncompliance. If, after the
date for submission of a report on the results of an action plan and spot
checks pursuant to paragraph (e)(11)(iv)(B) of this section, the Commission
finds continued evidence of a pattern or trend of noncompliance, additional
enforcement actions may be taken, which may include admonishments,
forfeitures, and other corrective actions, including, but not limited to,
requiring the station to cease using ENT and to use real-time captioning for
(v) Progress report. No later than one year after the effective date of this
paragraph (e)(11), broadcast stations that adhere to the procedures set
forth in paragraph (e)(11)(i) shall jointly prepare and submit to the
Commission, in consultation with individuals who rely on captions to watch
television and organizations representing such individuals, a report on
their experiences with following such procedures, and the extent to which
they have been successful in providing full and equal access to live
(f) Procedures for exemptions based on economically burdensome standard. (1)
A video programming provider, video programming producer or video
programming owner may petition the Commission for a full or partial
exemption from the closed captioning requirements. Exemptions may be
granted, in whole or in part, for a channel of video programming, a category
or type of video programming, an individual video service, a specific video
program or a video programming provider upon a finding that the closed
captioning requirements will be economically burdensome.
(2) A petition for an exemption must be supported by sufficient evidence to
demonstrate that compliance with the requirements to closed caption video
programming would be economically burdensome. The term “economically
burdensome” means significant difficulty or expense. Factors to be
considered when determining whether the requirements for closed captioning
are economically burdensome include:
(i) The nature and cost of the closed captions for the programming;
(ii) The impact on the operation of the provider or program owner;
(iii) The financial resources of the provider or program owner; and
(iv) The type of operations of the provider or program owner.
(3) In addition to these factors, the petition shall describe any other
factors the petitioner deems relevant to the Commission's final
determination and any available alternatives that might constitute a
reasonable substitute for the closed captioning requirements including, but
not limited to, text or graphic display of the content of the audio portion
of the programming. The extent to which the provision of closed captions is
economically burdensome shall be evaluated with regard to the individual
(4) A petition requesting an exemption based on the economically burdensome
standard, and all subsequent pleadings, shall be filed electronically in
accordance with § 0.401(a)(1)(iii) of this chapter.
(5) The Commission will place the petition on public notice.
(6) Any interested person may file comments or oppositions to the petition
within 30 days of the public notice of the petition. Within 20 days of the
close of the comment period, the petitioner may reply to any comments or
(7) Comments or oppositions to the petition shall be filed electronically
and served on the petitioner and shall include a certification that the
petitioner was served with a copy. Replies to comments or oppositions shall
be filed electronically and served on the commenting or opposing party and
shall include a certification that the commenting or opposing party was
served with a copy. Comments or oppositions and replies may be served upon a
party, its attorney, or other duly constituted agent by delivering or
mailing a copy to the last known address in accordance with § 1.47 of this
chapter or by sending a copy to the email address last provided by the
party, its attorney, or other duly constituted agent.
(8) Upon a showing of good cause, the Commission may lengthen or shorten any
comment period and waive or establish other procedural requirements.
(9) All petitions and responsive pleadings shall contain a detailed, full
showing, supported by affidavit, of any facts or considerations relied on.
(10) The Commission may deny or approve, in whole or in part, a petition for
an economically burdensome exemption from the closed captioning
(11) During the pendency of an economically burdensome determination, the
video programming subject to the request for exemption shall be considered
exempt from the closed captioning requirements.
(g) Complaint procedures. (1) Complaints concerning an alleged violation of
the closed captioning requirements of this section shall be filed with the
Commission or with the video programming distributor responsible for
delivery and exhibition of the video programming within sixty (60) days of
the problem with captioning. A complaint must be in writing, must state with
specificity the alleged Commission rule violated and must include some
evidence of the alleged rule violation.
(2) Complaints filed first with the Commission will be forwarded to the
appropriate video programming distributor. The video programming distributor
must respond in writing to the Commission and the complainant within 30 days
of the receipt of the complaint from the Commission.
(3) Complaints sent to a video programming distributor regarding programming
by a television broadcast station or other programming for which the video
programming distributor is exempt from closed captioning responsibility
pursuant to paragraph (e)(9) of this section, shall be forwarded by the
video programming distributor within seven (7) days of receipt to the entity
responsible for closed captioning of the programming at issue. The video
programming distributor must also notify the complainant and the Commission
that it has forwarded the complaint. Entities receiving forwarded complaints
must respond in writing to the complainant within 30 days of the forwarding
date of the complaint.
(4) If a complaint is first filed with the video programming distributor,
the video programming distributor must respond in writing to the complainant
within thirty (30) days after receipt of a closed captioning complaint. If a
video programming distributor fails to respond to the complainant within
thirty (30) days, or the response does not satisfy the consumer, the
complainant may file the complaint with the Commission within thirty (30)
days after the time allotted for the video programming distributor to
respond. If a consumer re-files the complaint with the Commission (after
filing with the distributor), the Commission will forward the complaint to
the distributor, and the distributor shall respond to the Commission and the
complainant within thirty (30) days of receipt of the complaint from the
(5) In response to a complaint, a video programming distributor is obligated
to provide the Commission with sufficient records and documentation to
demonstrate that it is in compliance with the Commission's rules.
(6) Certifications from programming suppliers, including programming
producers, programming owners, networks, syndicators and other distributors,
may be relied on to demonstrate compliance. Distributors will not be held
responsible for situations where a program source falsely certifies that
programming delivered to the distributor meets our captioning requirements
if the distributor is unaware that the certification is false. Video
programming providers may rely on the accuracy of certifications.
Appropriate action may be taken with respect to deliberate falsifications.
(7) The Commission will review the complaint, including all supporting
evidence, and determine whether a violation has occurred. The Commission
shall, as needed, request additional information from the video programming
(8) If the Commission finds that a violation has occurred, penalties may be
imposed, including a requirement that the video programming distributor
deliver video programming containing closed captioning in an amount
exceeding that specified in paragraph (b) of this section in a future time
(h) Private rights of action prohibited. Nothing in this section shall be
construed to authorize any private right of action to enforce any
requirement of this section. The Commission shall have exclusive
jurisdiction with respect to any complaint under this section.
(i) Contact information. (1) Video programming distributors shall make
available contact information for the receipt and handling of immediate
closed captioning concerns raised by consumers while they are watching a
program. Programming distributors must designate a telephone number, fax
number, and e-mail address for purposes of receiving and responding
immediately to any closed captioning concerns. Distributors shall include
this information on their Web sites (if they have a Web site), in telephone
directories, and in billing statements (to the extent the distributor issues
billing statements). Distributors shall keep this information current and
update it to reflect any changes within 10 business days for Web sites, by
the next billing cycle for billing statements, and by the next publication
of directories. Video programming distributors should ensure that any staff
reachable through this contact information has the capability to immediately
respond to and address consumers' concerns. To the extent that a distributor
has personnel available, either on site or remotely, to address any
technical problems that may arise, consumers using this dedicated contact
information must be able to reach someone, either directly or indirectly,
who can address the consumer's captioning concerns. This provision does not
require that distributors alter their hours of operation or the hours during
which they have staffing available; at the same time, however, where staff
is available to address technical issues that may arise during the course of
transmitting programming, they also must be knowledgeable about and be able
to address closed captioning concerns. In situations where a distributor is
not immediately available, any calls or inquiries received, using this
dedicated contact information, should be returned or otherwise addressed
within 24 hours. In those situations where the captioning problem does not
reside with the distributor, the staff person receiving the inquiry should
refer the matter appropriately for resolution.
(2) Video programming distributors shall make contact information available
for the receipt and handling of written closed captioning complaints that do
not raise the type of immediate issues that are addressed in paragraph
(i)(1) of this section. The contact information required for written
complaints shall include the name of a person with primary responsibility
for captioning issues and who can ensure compliance with our rules. In
addition, this contact information shall include the person's title or
office, telephone number, fax number, postal mailing address, and e-mail
address. Distributors shall include this information on their Web sites (if
they have a Web site), in telephone directories, and in billing statements
(to the extent the distributor issues billing statements). Distributors
shall keep this information current and update it within 10 business days
for Web sites, by the next billing cycle for billing statements, and by the
next publication of directories.
(3) Providing contact information to the Commission. Video programming
distributors shall file the contact information described in this section
with the Commission in one of the following ways: Through a web form located
on the FCC Web site; with the Chief of the Disability Rights Office,
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau; or by sending an email to
CLOSEDCAPTIONING_POC@fcc.gov. Contact information shall be available to
consumers on the FCC Web site or by telephone inquiry to the Commission's
Consumer Center. Distributors shall notify the Commission each time there is
a change in any of this required information within 10 business days.
(j) Captioning quality obligation; standards. (1) A video programming
distributor shall exercise best efforts to obtain a certification from each
video programmer from which the distributor obtains programming stating:
(i) That the video programmer's programming satisfies the caption quality
standards of paragraph (j)(2) of this section;
(ii) That in the ordinary course of business, the video programmer has
adopted and follows the Best Practices set forth in paragraph (k)(1) of this
(iii) That the video programmer is exempt from the closed captioning rules
under one or more properly attained exemptions. For programmers certifying
exemption from the closed captioning rules, the video programming
distributor must obtain a certification from the programmer that specifies
the exact exemption that the programmer is claiming. Video programming
distributors may satisfy their best efforts obligation by locating a
programmer's certification on the programmer's Web site or other widely
available locations used for the purpose of posting widely available
certifications. If a video programming distributor is unable to locate such
certification on the programmer's Web site or other widely available
location used for the purpose of posting such certification, the video
programming distributor must inform the video programmer in writing that it
must make widely available such certification within 30 days after receiving
the written request. If a video programmer does not make such certification
widely available within 30 days after receiving a written request, the video
programming distributor shall promptly submit a report to the Commission
identifying such non-certifying video programmer for the purpose of being
placed in a publicly available database. A video programming distributor
that meets each of the requirements of this paragraph shall not be liable
for violations of paragraphs (j)(2) and (3) of this section to the extent
that any such violations are outside the control of the video programming
(2) Captioning quality standards. Closed captioning shall convey the aural
content of video programming in the original language (i.e. English or
Spanish) to individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing to the same extent
that the audio track conveys such content to individuals who are able to
hear. Captioning shall be accurate, synchronous, complete, and appropriately
placed as those terms are defined herein.
(i) Accuracy. Captioning shall match the spoken words (or song lyrics when
provided on the audio track) in their original language (English or
Spanish), in the order spoken, without substituting words for proper names
and places, and without paraphrasing, except to the extent that paraphrasing
is necessary to resolve any time constraints. Captions shall contain proper
spelling (including appropriate homophones), appropriate punctuation and
capitalization, correct tense and use of singular or plural forms, and
accurate representation of numbers with appropriate symbols or words. If
slang or grammatical errors are intentionally used in a program's dialogue,
they shall be mirrored in the captions. Captioning shall provide nonverbal
information that is not observable, such as the identity of speakers, the
existence of music (whether or not there are also lyrics to be captioned),
sound effects, and audience reaction, to the greatest extent possible, given
the nature of the program. Captions shall be legible, with appropriate
spacing between words for readability.
(ii) Synchronicity. Captioning shall coincide with the corresponding spoken
words and sounds to the greatest extent possible, given the type of the
programming. Captions shall begin to appear at the time that the
corresponding speech or sounds begin and end approximately when the speech
or sounds end. Captions shall be displayed on the screen at a speed that
permits them to be read by viewers.
(iii) Completeness. Captioning shall run from the beginning to the end of
the program, to the fullest extent possible.
(iv) Placement. Captioning shall be viewable and shall not block other
important visual content on the screen, including, but not limited to,
character faces, featured text (e.g., weather or other news updates,
graphics and credits), and other information that is essential to
understanding a program's content when the closed captioning feature is
activated. Caption font shall be sized appropriately for legibility. Lines
of caption shall not overlap one another and captions shall be adequately
positioned so that they do not run off the edge of the video screen.
(3) Application of captioning quality standards. Captioning shall meet the
standards of paragraph (j)(2) of this section for accuracy, synchronicity,
completeness and placement, except for de minimis captioning errors. In
determining whether a captioning error is de minimis, the Commission will
consider the particular circumstances presented, including the type of
failure, the reason for the failure, whether the failure was one-time or
continuing, the degree to which the program was understandable despite the
errors, and the time frame within which corrective action was taken to
prevent such failures from recurring. When applying such standards to live
and near-live programming, the Commission will also take into account, on a
case-by-case basis, the following factors:
(i) Accuracy. The overall accuracy or understandability of the programming,
the ability of the captions to convey the aural content of the program in a
manner equivalent to the aural track, and the extent to which the captioning
errors prevented viewers from having access to the programming.
(ii) Synchronicity. The extent to which measures have been taken, to the
extent technically feasible, to keep any delay in the presentation of
captions to a minimum, consistent with an accurate presentation of what is
being said, so that the time between when words are spoken or sounds occur
and captions appear does not interfere with the ability of viewers to follow
(iii) Completeness. The delays inherent in sending captioning transmissions
on live programs, and whether steps have been taken, to the extent
technically feasible, to minimize the lag between the time a program's audio
is heard and the time that captions appear, so that captions are not cut off
when the program transitions to a commercial or a subsequent program.
(iv) Placement. The type and nature of the programming and its
susceptibility to unintentional blocking by captions.
(4) Complaints. The Commission will forward an informal complaint regarding
captioning quality to a video programming distributor only if the informal
complaint contains the channel number, channel name, network, or call sign;
the name of the multichannel video program distributor, if applicable; the
date and time when the captioning problem occurred; the name of the program
with the captioning problem; and a detailed description of the captioning
problem, including specifics about the frequency and type of problem (e.g.,
garbling, captions cut off at certain times or on certain days, and accuracy
(k) Captioning Best Practices—(1) Video Programmer Best Practices. Video
programmers adopting Best Practices will adhere to the following practices.
(i) Agreements with captioning services. Video programmers adopting Best
Practices will take the following actions to promote the provision of high
quality television closed captions through new or renewed agreements with
(A) Performance requirements. Include performance requirements designed to
promote the creation of high quality closed captions for video programming,
comparable to those described in paragraphs (k)(2), (k)(3) and (k)(4) of
(B) Verification. Include a means of verifying compliance with such
performance requirements, such as through periodic spot checks of captioned
(C) Training. Include provisions designed to ensure that captioning vendors'
employees and contractors who provide caption services have received
appropriate training and that there is oversight of individual captioners'
(ii) Operational Best Practices. Video programmers adopting Best Practices
will take the following actions to promote delivery of high quality
television captions through improved operations.
(A) Preparation materials. To the extent available, provide captioning
vendors with advance access to preparation materials such as show scripts,
lists of proper names (people and places), and song lyrics used in the
program, as well as to any dress rehearsal or rundown that is available and
(B) Quality audio. Make commercially reasonable efforts to provide
captioning vendors with access to a high quality program audio signal to
promote accurate transcription and minimize latency.
(C) Captioning for prerecorded programming. (1) The presumption is that
pre-recorded programs, excluding programs that initially aired with
real-time captions, will be captioned offline before air except when, in the
exercise of a programmer's commercially reasonable judgment, circumstances
require real-time or live display captioning. Examples of commercially
reasonable exceptions may include instances when:
(i) A programmer's production is completed too close to initial air time be
captioned offline or may require editorial changes up to air time (e.g.,
news content, reality shows),
(ii) A program is delivered late,
(iii) There are technical problems with the caption file,
(iv) Last minute changes must be made to later network feeds (e.g., when
shown in a later time zone) due to unforeseen circumstances,
(v) There are proprietary or confidentiality considerations, or
(vi) Video programming networks or channels with a high proportion of live
or topical time-sensitive programming, but also some pre-recorded programs,
use real-time captioning for all content (including pre-recorded programs)
to allow for immediate captioning of events or breaking news stories that
interrupt scheduled programming.
(2) The video programmer will make reasonable efforts to employ live display
captioning instead of real-time captioning for prerecorded programs if the
complete program can be delivered to the caption service provider in
sufficient time prior to airing.
(iii) Monitoring and Remedial Best Practices. Video programmers adopting
Best Practices will take the following actions aimed at improving prompt
identification and remediation of captioning errors when they occur.
(A) Pre-air monitoring of offline captions. As part of the overall pre-air
quality control process for television programs, conduct periodic checks of
offline captions on prerecorded programs to determine the presence of
(B) Real-time monitoring of captions. Monitor television program streams at
point of origination (e.g., monitors located at the network master control
point or electronic monitoring) to determine presence of captions.
(C) Programmer and captioning vendor contacts. Provide to captioning vendors
appropriate staff contacts who can assist in resolving captioning issues.
Make captioning vendor contact information readily available in master
control or other centralized location, and contact captioning vendor
promptly if there is a caption loss or obvious compromise of captions.
(D) Recording of captioning issues. Maintain a log of reported captioning
issues, including date, time of day, program title, and description of the
issue. Beginning one year after the effective date of the captioning quality
standards, such log should reflect reported captioning issues from the prior
(E) Troubleshooting protocol. Develop procedures for troubleshooting
consumer captioning complaints within the distribution chain, including
identifying relevant points of contact, and work to promptly resolve
captioning issues, if possible.
(F) Accuracy spot checks. Within 30 days following notification of a pattern
or trend of complaints from the Commission, conduct spot checks of
television program captions to assess caption quality and address any
(iv) Certification procedures for video programmers. Video programmers
adopting Best Practices will certify to video programming distributors that
they adhere to Best Practices for video programmers and will make such
certifications widely available to video programming distributors, for
example, by posting on affiliate Web sites.
(2) Real-Time (Live) Captioning Vendors Best Practices. (i) Create and use
metrics to assess accuracy, synchronicity, completeness, and placement of
(ii) Establish minimum acceptable standards based upon those metrics while
striving to regularly exceed those minimum standards.
(iii) Perform frequent and regular evaluations and sample audits to ensure
those standards are maintained.
(iv) Consider “accuracy” of captions to be a measurement of the percentage
of correct words out of total words in the program, calculated by
subtracting number of errors from total number of words in the program,
dividing that number by total number of words in the program and converting
that number to a percentage. For example, 7,000 total words in the program
minus 70 errors equals 6,930 correct words captioned, divided by 7,000 total
words in the program equals 0.99 or 99% accuracy.
(v) Consider, at a minimum, mistranslated words, incorrect words, misspelled
words, missing words, and incorrect punctuation that impedes comprehension
and misinformation as errors.
(A) Captions are written in a near-as-verbatim style as possible, minimizing
(B) The intended message of the spoken dialogue is conveyed in the
associated captions in a clear and comprehensive manner.
(C) Music lyrics should accompany artist performances.
(vi) Consider synchronicity of captions to be a measurement of lag between
the spoken word supplied by the program origination point and when captions
are received at the same program origination point.
(vii) Ensure placement of captions on screen to avoid obscuring on-screen
information and graphics (e.g., sports coverage).
(viii) Ensure proper screening, training, supervision, and evaluation of
captioners by experienced and qualified real-time captioning experts.
(ix) Ensure there is an infrastructure that provides technical and other
support to video programmers and captioners at all times.
(x) Ensure that captioners are qualified for the type and difficulty level
of the programs to which they are assigned.
(xi) Utilize a system that verifies captioners are prepared and in position
prior to a scheduled assignment.
(xii) Ensure that technical systems are functional and allow for fastest
possible delivery of caption data and that failover systems are in place to
prevent service interruptions.
(xiii) Regularly review discrepancy reports in order to correct issues and
avoid future issues.
(xiv) Respond in a timely manner to concerns raised by video programmers or
(xv) Alert video programmers immediately if a technical issue needs to be
addressed on their end.
(xvi) Inform video programmers of appropriate use of real-time captioning
(i.e., for live and near-live programming, and not for prerecorded
programming) and what is necessary to produce quality captions, including
technical requirements and the need for preparatory materials.
(xvii) For better coordination for ensuring high quality captions and for
addressing problems as they arise, understand the roles and responsibilities
of other stakeholders in the closed-captioning process, including
broadcasters, producers, equipment manufacturers, regulators, and viewers,
and keep abreast of issues and developments in those sectors.
(xviii) Ensure that all contracted captioners adhere to the Real-Time
Captioners Best Practices contained in paragraph (k)(4) of this section.
(3) Real-Time Captioners Best Practices. (i) Caption as accurately,
synchronously, completely, and appropriately placed as possible, given the
nature of the programming.
(ii) Ensure they are equipped with a failover plan to minimize caption
interruption due to captioner or equipment malfunction.
(iii) Be equipped with reliable, high speed Internet.
(iv) Be equipped with multiple telephone lines.
(v) Prepare as thoroughly as possible for each program.
(vi) File thorough discrepancy reports with the captioning vendor in a
(vii) To the extent possible given the circumstances of the program, ensure
that real-time captions are complete when the program ends.
(viii) Engage the command that allows captions to pass at commercials and
conclusion of broadcasts.
(ix) Monitor captions to allow for immediate correction of errors and
prevention of similar errors appearing or repeating in captions.
(x) Perform frequent and regular self-evaluations.
(xi) Perform regular dictionary maintenance.
(xii) Keep captioning equipment in good working order and update software
and equipment as needed.
(xiii) Possess the technical skills to troubleshoot technical issues.
(xiv) Keep abreast of current events and topics that they caption.
(4) Offline (Prerecorded) Captioning Vendors Best Practices. (i) Ensure
offline captions are verbatim.
(ii) Ensure offline captions are error-free.
(iii) Ensure offline captions are punctuated correctly and in a manner that
(iv) Ensure offline captions are synchronized with the audio of the program.
(v) Ensure offline captions are displayed with enough time to be read
completely and that they do not obscure the visual content.
(vii) Ensure offline captioning is a complete textual representation of the
audio, including speaker identification and non-speech information.
(viii) Create or designate a manual of style to be applied in an effort to
achieve uniformity in presentation.
(ix) Employ frequent and regular evaluations to ensure standards are
(x) Inform video programmers of appropriate uses of real-time and offline
captioning and strive to provide offline captioning for prerecorded
(A) Encourage use of offline captioning for live and near-live programming
that originally aired on television and re-feeds at a later time.
(B) Encourage use of offline captioning for all original and library
prerecorded programming completed well in advance of its distribution on
(xi) For better coordination for ensuring high quality captions and for
addressing problems as they arise, understand the roles and responsibilities
of other stakeholders in the closed-captioning process, including video
program distributors, video programmers, producers, equipment manufacturers,
regulators, and viewers, and keep abreast of issues and developments in
[ 62 FR 48493 , Sept. 16, 1997, as amended at 63 FR 55962 , Oct. 20, 1998; 64 FR 33424 , June 23, 1999; 65 FR 58477 , Sept. 29, 2000; 69 FR 72047 , Dec. 10,
2004; 74 FR 1604 , Jan. 13, 2009; 74 FR 46703 , Sept. 11, 2009; 75 FR 7369 ,
Feb. 19, 2010; 77 FR 19515 , Mar. 30, 2012; 77 FR 48104 , Aug. 13, 2012; 79 FR 17926 , Mar. 31, 2014; 79 FR 77916 , Dec. 29, 2014]
Effective Date Note: At 75 FR 7369 , Feb. 19, 2010, paragraph (g)(3) was
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Goto Section: 79.1 | 79.2
Goto Year: 2014 |
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