New FCC Mandate: User Control for Online Video Closed Captions

April 4, 2014 BY LILY BOND
Updated: January 4, 2018

An FCC deadline that involves user control in online video closed captioning has recently passed surprisingly silently, but it’s an important mandate to be aware of – and it’s been a long time coming. Think of it as the next generation of closed captioning capability! It’s pretty cool, and it should improve accessibility and user experience significantly.

The FCC mandate sets new user control requirements for online video closed captioning. Note that it applies only to online full-length programming that previously appeared with captions on television in the United States. As of January 1, 2014, all online video programming distributors (VPDs) must comply with the advanced closed captioning standard CEA-708.

This mandate was supposed to have a deadline of September 30, 2012, but the Digital Media Association (DiMA) filed a petition requesting a waiver due to the technological challenge of designing, testing, and implementing the new, higher standards that CEA-708 required. The waiver was approved, and the deadline was extended to January 1, 2014.

So now that that date has passed, the FCC requires online video of full-length programming that previously aired on television to implement the standards of more advanced user controls. When looking at this FCC decision in conjunction with the most recent phase of the 21st Century Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), you might notice that as of March 30th, 2014, captions are required for all archived video within 45 days of going online. This is going to make for a large influx of captioned videos that now also require this new user control interface.

What Does This New User Control Interface Look Like?

Well, what it looks like is a much cooler and more effective way of viewing closed captioning. Now, if the VPD uses an application or plug-in to display programming, users should have the ability to control font type, font size, font and background color, opacity, window color, and character edge style (drop shadow, raised, depressed). You can customize your captions to your own preferences: now, there is a fun factor involved. And, the ability to change these integral aspects of captions can make content much more accessible, especially for users with partial vision impairment.

To see how it works in action, go to a YouTube video that has closed captions (here’s an example of one of ours). When you press the CC button to turn on closed captions, click on “Options”. Then, play around with all the different possibilities! Here’s an idea of what it looks like:

What User Controls for Closed Captions Look Like After the FCC’s Mandate

Read the free report: 2017 State of Captioning.

The closed caption CC icon shown in the middle of a TV.