Act Now! Improve Television Closed Captioning

On November 24th, the NAD, along with other consumer groups, submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about closed captioning. The FCC wants updated information about the need for closed captioning technical and non-technical standards, monitoring, reporting, use of the “electronic newsroom technique” or teleprompter scripts for captioning, and applying the $3 million revenue exemption to broadcasters who provide multiple channels of programming. You can tell the FCC what you think about these closed captioning issues until December 9, 2010.


In 2004, the NAD, along with other consumer groups, asked the FCC to establish mechanisms to implement the closed captioning rules better and to establish standards to ensure high quality and reliable closed captioning. Click here to view the July 23, 2004 filing. Since then, we have continued to advocate for FCC action. In 2005, the FCC began addressing these issues through a rulemaking process. In 2008, that process continued and resulted in the FCC improving the way that closed captioning complaints are filed and making contact information more available to consumers. In 2009, the United States switched to digital television broadcasting and broadcasters expanded their programs to multiple channels (called “multicasting”). The FCC asked how certain closed captioning rules should apply to broadcasters who multicast.

Now, the FCC wants to update certain information about closed captioning. Here is what you can tell the FCC. Further below is a summary of our responses to FCC questions. Click here to read the full comments from our November 24, 2010 filing.

Tell the FCC – Improve Closed Captioning Now!

Deadline for comments is Thursday, December 9, 2010

Follow these steps to submit your comments:

  1. Click here to submit your comments to the FCC.
  2. Type 05-231 in the box marked “Proceeding Number.”
  3. Type your name, contact information, and comments in the other boxes provided.
  4. Attach a file with your comments. Below is a sample comment that you can file:

    Closed captioning ensures equal access to television information, news, and entertainment.  As a deaf/hard of hearing person, I rely on television captioning every day.

    I support the comments submitted by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and other consumer groups:

    •   Closed captioning rules must be changed to require real-time captioning for local news programs nationwide.
    • The FCC must establish minimum standards for closed captions.
    • Closed captions should be monitored to find and fix problems quickly.
    • Closed caption compliance reports should be filed every three months.
    • The FCC should establish fines for closed captioning violations.
    • Broadcasters with more than $3,000,000 revenue per year must caption the programs on all of their “multicast” channels, not just their main channel.


    <Your name>

  5. When complete, click on “Continue” to send your comment to the FCC.

Summary of NAD Comments

  • The FCC must establish minimum standards to ensure captioning quality, such as accuracy of transcription, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and placement of captions, as well as acceptable error rates and display rates for pre-recorded and real-time captioning.  These standards will help ensure that closed captions are effective.
  • Imposing closed captioning standards to ensure effective captions should not increase the cost of those captions.
  • There are enough competent captioners to meet quality standard requirements.
  • Captions for pre-recorded programs should be virtually error-free.  The accuracy rate for real-time captioning of live programming may be different (slightly less) and should specify a minimum speed of production and maximum delay in the delivery and display of those real-time captions.
  • Mechanisms and procedures must be adopted to prevent technical problems from occurring in the transmission of closed captions.  Closed captions should be monitored and equipment must be routinely checked.  Newer technologies and equipment are available to assist with monitoring and alerting of technical problems so those problems can be fixed quickly.
  • To encourage compliance, the FCC should establish forfeitures (fines) for violations of the closed captioning requirements.
  • Television program distributors should file closed captioning compliance reports every three months.  These reports should be available to the public and include information about programs that are not captioned and the reason(s) for the lack of captioning, as well as information about closed captioning complaints received and resolved.
  • The closed captioning rules must be changed to require real-time captioning for live programming, especially local news programs.  Today, only local news programs on major stations in the biggest 25 market areas have real-time captions.  Smaller market areas use the “electronic newsroom technique” that transmits a news reporter’s script as captions.  This technique does not provide equal access to the news.  Spontaneous commentary, live field reports, breaking news, and weather updates, are typically not captioned.  The information contained in local news programming is critical for community and civic participation, and daily living.
  • The FCC should require petitions for exemption from the closed captioning requirements to be filed electronically.  The FCC should also eliminate the requirement to mail printed copies of comments, when those comments are filed electronically.
  • One of the closed captioning rules says that channels making less than $3,000,000 per year in revenue do not need to spend any money on closed captions.  For broadcasters who have expanded their programs to multiple channels (called “multicasting”), the FCC should apply the $3,000,000 limit to the overall operations of the broadcaster, not the individual multicast channels.  If multicast channels are each considered a separate channel, and those channels do not generate at least $3,000,000 of additional revenue each, regardless of the overall revenues of the broadcasters, millions of deaf and hard of hearing viewers will be unable to view a significant amount (as much as 75-80%) of a broadcaster’s digital programming.  Such a result would be a tremendous decrease in accessible video programming for the deaf and hard of hearing community and a significant setback in the progress toward equal access that Congress intended and the FCC has achieved.