What are the current laws regarding closed captioning?

What are the current laws regarding closed captioning?


The principal laws mandating closed captioning in America are the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (the Telecomm Act) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Following the Telecomm Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued regulations requiring video program distributors (broadcasters, cable operators and satellite distributors) to gradually phase in closed captioning of their television programs. The schedule set by the FCC distinguishes between “new” programming (analog programming first shown after January 1, 1998, and digital programming first shown after July 1, 2002), and “pre-rule” programming (analog and digital programming first shown prior to such dates).

In addition, there is a separate schedule for Spanish language programming. Currently, 75% of all new, and 30% of all pre-rule, English-language programming must be captioned. The caption requirement for English-language programming increases to 100% on January 1, 2006 for new programming, and to 75% on January 1, 2008 for pre-rule programming. Spanish-language programming is being phased in on a later schedule with 50% of the new, and 30% of pre-rule, programming currently required to be captioned. Captioning of new Spanish-language programming increases to 75% in 2007, and to 100% in 2010, while captioning of pre-rule programming increases to 75% in 2012.

The FCC has exempted certain programming from their captioning requirements entirely, including most programming shown between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., advertisements under five minutes in length, public service announcements shorter than 10 minutes (unless they are federally-funded or produced), and programming provided by distributors with less than $3 million in annual gross revenues.

For more detailed information on the FCC’s regulations governing captioning, please visit: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/closedcaption.html

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, coupled with the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, requires all electronic and information technology provided by Federal agencies to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and the general public. This means that all informational and training videos and other multimedia productions developed, procured, maintained, or used by any Federal agency must be open or closed captioned to provide access to the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

For more detailed information on Section 508 please visit: http://www.section508.gov

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