Earlier this year, the FCC adopted rules requiring captioned programs shown on TV in the United States to also include captions if they’re delivered over the Internet. Since most U.S. broadcast television content is required to be captioned, nearly all of the country’s TV programming that’s available over the Internet eventually will require captions as well.
As far as what this means to Video Cloud customers, let's start with some background on the new rules and then outline what Brightcove is doing to make sure you have everything you need to comply with the those rules.
FCC closed captioning rules
For starters, the FCC’s new captioning rules include a series of three key deadlines:
- September 30, 2012: On or after this date, any pre-recorded program that’s not “edited for the Internet” must be captioned for online delivery if it was originally broadcast with captions. “Edited for the Internet,” according to the FCC, “means the TV version has been substantially edited.” The agency says deleting scenes or altering musical scores would fit that criteria, whereas changing the number or length of commercials wouldn’t.
- March 30, 2013: On or after this date, the Commission says live and near-live programming on the Internet must be captioned if it’s shown on TV with captions. The FCC defines near-live as “video programming that is performed and recorded less than 24 hours before being shown on TV for the first time.”
- September 30, 2013: Finally, any pre-recorded programming that’s been substantially edited for the Internet must include captions if it was shown on TV with captions on or after this date.
The FCC has also adopted a two-year window during which publishers may voluntarily (but are not required to) caption archival content that re-airs on television with captions. After the two-year window expires, publishers must then provide captioned versions of archival programs within the following timeframes:
- Within 45 days after the date it is shown on TV with captions on or after March 30, 2014 and before March 30, 2015;
- within 30 days after the date it is shown on TV with captions on or after March 30, 2015 and before March 30, 2016; and
- within 15 days after the date it is shown on TV with captions on or after March 30, 2016.
There are a few nuances to the new FCC rules that are worth noting:
- The rules cover full-length video programming; not clips and outtakes.
- When segments of a captioned program are re-shown on the Internet, it must include captions if substantial portions of the program are included in the segments.
- User-generated content such as home videos shown on the Internet don’t require captions unless it was shown on TV with captions.
- Movies shown on the Internet don’t need captions unless they were shown on TV with captions.
What Brightcove is doing
Brightcove supports closed captioning today (more information is available here, here and here). If you’re already using our existing closed captioning functions, you don’t have to make any changes as we’ll continue to support the current custom metadata fields and APIs.
However, we’re moving to treat closed captioning as a core function in our upload and transcoding process, much like generating thumbnails. As such, Video Cloud will include new closed captioning features functionality in time for the first FCC deadline of September 30. The key enhancements include:
- A dedicated metadata field within the Video Cloud Studio for a closed captioning file for each video that can accept an upload of an SMPTE-TT file, which will be hosted by Brightcove. Alternatively, users can specify a remote URL for the caption file to host the file themselves.
- Significant updates to the closed captioning module within the Flash and HTML5 Smart Players to render and display the captions for the end user.
- The ability to customize how captions are displayed, ensuring they’re on par with the quality of TV captions and also have the same user tools as TV.
The FCC’s new closed captioning rules have been issued as part of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) of 2010. The Act was signed by President Obama to ensure accessibility laws of the 1980s and 90s are brought up to date with 21st technologies.
For Brightcove customers and partners with questions, we encourage you to contact your Brightcove account manager directly. And of course, keep an eye out for future communications from Brightcove that will further address the issue.