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Closed Captioning of Internet Video: FCC Final Deadline is approaching

The final deadline of the FCC’s Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) pertaining to online videos is quickly approaching. On July 1, 2017, video clips of live and near-live television programming (such as news or sporting events) will need to observe the following turnaround times for posting online with captions:

  • Clips of live programming posted to the internet must have captions within 12 hours of it's original broadcast;
  • Clips of near-live programming must have captions within 8 hours of it's initial broadcast.

Live programming is defined as programming that is shown on TV substantially simultaneously with its performance. When the Commission evaluates the compliance of captioning standards on live programming, there’s an understanding that live programming cannot be perfect since there’s a human element to live captioning and no opportunity to review and edit captions in a live setting. 

Near-live programming, programming performed and recorded within 24 hours prior to it's first airing on television, is evaluated under the same standards applied to live programming. Although the FCC encourages measures be taken prior to the program’s airing to improve its captioning quality, it’s understood that the window of time to make those corrections is very limited.

Internet Captioning Rules

The CVAA requires video programming distributors that show programming on TV to post captioned clips of their programming on their own websites or other apps.  Currently, the video clips rules do not apply to third party websites or apps.

  • The Internet closed captioning rules only apply if the video programming was shown on TV in the U.S.
  • “Full-length video programming” is video programming that is shown on TV and is distributed to end users in its entirety.
  • Excerpts of full-length video programming (with the same video and audio) captioned for television and posted online were required to be captioned as of January 1, 2016.  Captioned versions of these videos must be posted within 15 days of the date of the initial TV broadcast.
  • On January 1, 2017, the law extended to what's commonly called "montages" or edits composed of multiple video excerpts. An example might be a talk show where interviews with multiple guests are presented on the web in shorter clips that what might have originally aired on TV.  These clips are required to be captioned.
  • The prior deadlines applied to previously recorded broadcasts.  As of July 1, 2017, live and near live programming will have to follow the turnaround times noted at the beginning of this post.

Further reading from the FCC: Captioning of Internet Video Programming.

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