FCC: All Web TV Must Have Captions By The End Of September

By Megan O'Neill 

Deaf and hard of hearing viewers have been pushing for mandatory captions for web video for years now and, while we’ve seen steps in the direction of making online video more accessible, nothing has been passed making captions obligatory, until now.

Janko Roettgers of GigaOM reports that starting next month web TV needs to have captions.  A few days ago, the FCC ruled that, beginning on September 30, 2012, television networks and online video sites will need to begin providing closed captions for any online TV content.

Roettgers writes, “The ruling reaffirmed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2010, as well as an FCC ruling from earlier this year.”

A PDF of the ruling revealed that the Digital Media Association (DiMA), which includes Apple, Amazon and YouTube,  argued that “the current September 30, 2012 deadline is unrealistic due to technical difficulties.”  The FCC did not agree to extend the deadline.  However, previously they were going to require that television content distributors provide customizable captions, allowing viewers to change things like font size and color.  Now, they’ve given distributors an additional 16 months to provide customization.  Roettgers writes, “Starting September 30, deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers will have a right to access to basic captions, without these kinds of bells and whistles.”

Much online video content is already captioned, thanks to professional captioning services, YouTube’s auto-captioning feature and more. Just last month Netflix began dabbling in crowd-sourced captioning as well.  However, come the end of September we will be seeing a whole lot more captioned content.  Finally.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this news in the comments below.

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.