The New Year Brings New Captioning Regulations


by Johnathan Moore

The new year has brought a couple new accessibility regulations, with a third coming to pass this July. The most recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate is the January 1, 2017 benchmark for captioning IP-delivered montage clips. Next, live and near-live clips need captions starting July 1, 2017. Finally, last December brought new requirements for televisions and set-top boxes with regard to access and ease of use for the visually and aurally impaired. Let’s see what these steps mean.


Montage Clips: January 1, 2017

This newest rollout of IP-delivered video captioning mandates requires captions on all montage clips. This may not sound like much, as the “montage” is usually associated with condensing long spans of time in film, which rarely has much dialogue. In reality, the FCC is referring to any previously-aired clip which has been spliced into a new collection – think of sports highlight reels or “Best Of” countdowns. Now every “Top 10” video file which includes content previously aired on TV must be captioned for the web.

After last year’s “direct lift” clips mandate, VITAC initiated a quick-turnaround solution for our biggest clients, allowing clients to drop video into a folder based on turnaround, and automatically receive caption files back in as little as four hours.


Live and Near-Live Clips: July 1, 2017

In six short months, live and near-live clips of programming that aired with captions on TV will be required to be captioned online. Distributers will have a 12-hour turnaround timeframe to associate live programming with captions on the web. The turnaround period for near-live clips is 8 hours. This relates to clips of news, sporting events, and late-night talk shows, among others.

VITAC is already offering 4-8 hour turnaround for thousands of sports clips per month, and is poised to increase our capacity in July, when our sports customers will need captions for clips captioned in our realtime department.


In Case You Missed It — Device Accessibility: December 20, 2016

As detailed in the public notice on “Accessibility Requirements for Television and Set-Top Box Controls, Menus, and Program Guides”, any device that is designed to play back videos manufactured on or after today must be compliant with established FCC accessibility requirements. This means most television-related devices must be “accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, if achievable,” and “must include a simple and easy-to-use way for activating [closed captioning] functions,” when possible. The mandate divides the media-consumption devices into two categories as follows:

  1. Hardware designed to receive/play video programming whether over the Internet or not, such as televisions, personal computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices with pre-installed video players or video apps
  2. Hardware designed to access programming services, such as cable set-top boxes.

The language comprehensively details the idea that if a device plays, or aids in the playing of video media, it needs to be accessible. There are caveats for “relatively small…service operators” and “display-only monitors and video projectors,” stating their compliance is not required until 2018 and 2021, respectively.

The notice also outlines the complaint process, advising on contacting the manufacturer, then the FCC if not satisfied with the manufacturer’s response. This is in line with the FCC’s caption-complaint recommendations, which gives responsibility first to programmers and networks before contacting the FCC.


With every new accessibility mandate, media grows more and more inclusive. These recent rollouts and those upcoming are all part of creating a landscape of content to be enjoyed by all.