Analog and Digital Closed Captioning

Today, there are two types of captioning. Old analog captions (called CEA-608 captions) display only white text on a black background. New digital captions (called CEA-708 captions) allow viewers to change the size, color, font, and other features of the captions. Even after the transition to digital television (DTV) on June 12, 2009, many people will continue to use their old analog television sets with converter boxes to watch free, over-the-air television programs. For old analog televisions to continue to decode and display analog captions, broadcasters must continue transmitting analog (CEA-608) captions. Broadcasters must also begin captioning in the digital format for viewers who have digital equipment that can decode and display digital (CEA-708) captions.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also reminded “multichannel video programming distributors,” such as cable and satellite television companies, to make sure the equipment they give to their customers (for example, cable set-top boxes) transmits all available captions to the television set, for both analog and digital formatted programs. Captions must be delivered in a way that can be displayed by television caption decoders.

Source: FCC Declaratory Ruling, Order, and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, (Docket No’s 99-254, 05-231) (FCC No. 08-255) (November 7, 2008).