Exploring The FCC’s Standards for Online Videos

By: Verbit Editorial



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With content so easily accessible on YouTube, social and on streaming networks, having the ability to watch whatever we want, whenever we want is expected. The ways audiences consume content has evolved greatly, and will only continue to. With these changes, comes a greater need to ensure content is distributed in ways that all audience members, including individuals with disabilities, can watch it with equity.

When it comes to IP video programming, the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) have continued to work to improve their rules on items like closed captioning for viewer equity. Numerous updates have recently taken place in order to fall into accordance with the CVAA (Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act).

However, the need for clearer legislation for online video programming has been highly sought after. Ensuring equity and a high-level of quality standards are maintained is something Verbit, as a captioning and transcription company, and its leaders are passionate about. The FCC hadn’t declared a new rule since 2014 regarding content quality for closed captioning of video programming, CVAA.

Traditionally, the FCC ruling has only focused on TV programming. However in its report, the FCC demonstrates that the quality standards for TV closed captioning has become even more prevalent because it sets the bar for online content. The passage of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) requires the standards below. It’s worth noting that anything shown on traditional TV must reach the same standards once its released as an online video.

While the debate will continue on how to continue to improve these experiences for individuals with disabilities, there are four quality standards in place to be aware of. For online video captioning, you should look to consider caption accuracy, caption synchronicity, program completeness and caption placement. We’ve summarized each below to provide you with a clearer understanding.

Caption accuracy

According to the FCC, “In order to be accurate, captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue, in their original language (English or Spanish), to the fullest extent possible and include full lyrics when provided on the audio track.” Make perfect sense? What the FCC are stating here is that captions must mirror almost identically what is spoken in the audible content. This typically neglects the use of paraphrasing. Furthermore, the use of good grammar and spelling is also important and taken into consideration.

In order to further be deemed as accurate, captions must also emphasize the tone of voice portrayed by the speaker. They must be writing in accurate context also and the impact of the performance must not be lost in the transcribed captioning. It is worth highlighting here that this includes noises, sound effects, music etc.

Caption synchronicity

The FCC says here, “In order to be synchronous, captions must coincide with their corresponding spoken words and sounds to the greatest extent possible.” Let’s face it, we’re not human robots, therefore, the FCC has ensured captions are readable at a suitable speed for viewers. In addition, when programs are edited, the captions are reformatted to provide accurate synchronization.

Program completeness

Here, the FCC states, “In order for a program’s captions to be complete, captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program, to the fullest extent possible.” Simply, to ensure captions do not drop mid program and any which do will be within violation of the FCC standards.

Caption placement

FCC states that “captions should not block other important visual content on the screen including, but not limited to, character faces, featured text (e.g. weather or other news updates, graphics and credits), and other information that is essential to understanding a program’s content when the closed captioning feature is activated.” New standards ensure text can be clearly seen and read on the screen for viewers to see.

While online videos were also captioned at high accuracy levels, when measuring accuracy it can sometimes be subjective, therefore the FCC standards are somewhat lenient.

Further changes in FCC standards include the addition of religious organizations having to comply with new standards as of October 20th, 2011. Additionally, closed captioning requirements for IP delivered video content was placed on public video clips as of July 11, 2014.