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When Is Closed Captioning Required by Law?

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RevBlogCaptionsWhen Is Closed Captioning Required by Law?

Whether you’re hard of hearing or have watched content in a noisy, public environment, you’ve probably benefitted from closed captions at one time or another. You’ve probably also encountered inaccurate captions that haven’t matched what’s on screen. 

In 2014, the FCC received over 1,600 complaints about television captions, calling them “inaccurate,” “gibberish,” “garbled,” “butchered,” and “incomprehensible.” In response, they set forth four guiding principles for the quality of captioning based on accuracy, synchronicity, program completeness, and placements of the captions.

Nowadays, there are many such closed caption requirements and laws that aim to regulate caption quality across TV shows, movies and other public video content. 

Read on to learn about what closed caption compliance laws are currently in place, how they could affect you and how Rev’s premium caption service can help. 

Closed Captioning Laws

Here’s a breakdown of the four main closed captioning acts and laws in the US.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Coming into effect in 1990, the ADA is a law that aims to prevent discrimination against those with disabilties in public settings. 

It requires that state and local government (Title II entities) and businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public, like libraries, universities and museums (Title III entities), communicate effectively with all citizens, even those with a disability that affects the way they communicate. In essence, whatever written or audio-based materials these entities produce must be as clear and understandable to people with disabilities as they are for people who do not have disabilities.

While the law doesn’t explicitly refer to the captioning of online videos, they are often an essential part of the requirement to make sure public-facing content is accessible. Want to learn more? Read our blog about ADA compliance and closed captioning.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act 

Section 508 requires information and communication technologies, such as emails, websites and other online content, developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies to be accessible for all. As part of these requirements, all federal online video content needs to be captioned. 

508 compliance closed captioning should not obscure or obstruct relevant information in the video, and should make online content easier to understand for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

FCC Closed Captioning Regulations 

Overseen by Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent body that regulates all television, radio and internet communications in the United States. 

As part of these regulations, the FCC requires video programming distributors (VPDs) – cable operators, broadcasters, satellite distributors, and other multi-channel video programming distributors – to close caption their TV programs. For analog broadcasters, and increasingly for those distributing online content, captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue to the fullest extent possible. 

21st Century Communications and Videos Accessibility Act (CVAA)

Brought into law in 2010, the CVAA provides an update to existing federal communications law with the aim of increasing the accessibility of “modern communications”, especially online content.

Building on FCC closed caption regulations, this act states that online content must comply with analog closed captioning standards, such as those influencing the quality, timing and placement of captions on streamed video content.

What Do These Closed Captioning Requirements Mean?

While most of these laws apply to public entities and federal bodies, there is a knock-on effect for those producing online video content that can be viewed publicly. 

To make sure you’re meeting any closed captioning laws and requirements, your video content captions must be:

  • Accurate – captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue and convey background noises and other sounds to the fullest extent possible
  • Synchronous – captions must coincide with their corresponding spoken words and sounds as they appear on screen and should be displayed at a speed that can be read by the majority of viewers
  • Complete – captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program, conveying any and all relevant information 
  • Properly placed – captions should not block other important visual content on the screen, overlap one another, run off the edge of the video screen or be obscured by dark or conflicting visuals

How To Make Sure Your Videos Meet Closed Captioning Compliance With Rev 

Because legislation like the ADA requires Title II (state and local governments) and Title III entities (businesses and nonprofits) to communicate effectively with everyone, more businesses than ever are finding themselves needing to think about captioning for the first time. Luckily, Rev’s premium captioning provides a great solution. 

Whether your business requires you to meet ADA, 508, FCC or CVAA compliance (or all four), Rev’s captioning service can help you create the most comprehensive captions for your videos.

Per FCC compliance, captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue to the fullest extent possible. Rev meets this demand by providing captions that coincide with their corresponding spoken words and sounds and are displayed on the screen at a speed that can be read by viewers easily. 

Many closed caption regulations also now require captions to convey non-dialogue audio information needed to understand the program content, including speaker identification. With Rev, your captions will provide this extra contextual information by identifying a change in speaker with a “-” at the beginning of a monolog. 

Additionally, and in accordance with the caption laws for FCC and 508 compliance, Rev provides premium captions that can be displayed at the top and bottom of the screen to avoid overlap of critical information.

With Rev, captions are timely, accurate, complete, efficient, and now meet a range of closed captioning regulations

What if You Need Customized Captions?

We offer a simple solution!

Whether you need additional caption customization, the ability to submit special instructions, or a negotiated rate for a high volume of captions, RevPro has got you covered. 

With RevPro, you’ll be able to meet your recurring caption (and transcription) needs in a truly scalable, time-saving way. You can: 

  • Improve workflows
  • Gain exposure to new markets
  • Increase view times
  • Improve viewer comprehension
  • Receive Enterprise-level care and attention 
  • Access account management, security, and customer support features 

Whether you’re legally required to caption your videos, or you just want to keep up with industry standards and trends, Rev guarantees 99% accuracy, a 24-hour return on videos shorter than an hour, and a captions editor to let you refine your content.

Don’t limit your video’s reach by omitting captions and shutting out certain audience members – if you want to make your content more accessible, we’re here to help you make the change.

Affordable, fast transcription. 100% Guaranteed.