11 Jan 2022 David Titmus

FCC Seeks Comments on Updating Closed Captioning Display Rules

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking to refresh the record on proposed rules that make closed captioning display settings readily accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The FCC in 2015 proposed rules that would require manufacturers of applicable video devices and multichannel video programming distributors to make captioning display settings accessible, and sought comments on the adoption of those rules pursuant to the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990. Now, nearly six years later, the commission is seeking additional, updated comments on the issue.

Background

The Television Decoder Circuitry Act required that television receivers contain built-in decoder circuitry designed to display closed captioning. In 2000, the FCC adopted standards for the display of closed captions on digital television receivers, which enabled users to customize the appearance of captions by changing the font, size, color, and other features of captions.

In 2010, Congress enacted the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) to enable individuals with disabilities to fully utilize modern communications services and equipment and to better access video programming. The CVAA broadened the application of closed captioning display and functionality requirements to additional devices, beyond broadcast television receivers, to include any “apparatus designed to receive or play back video programming transmitted simultaneously with sound.”

As a result, the FCC adopted additional standards to ensure that viewers could further modify caption display features, including changing the presentation, opacity, caption background color, character edge attributes, and caption window color.

“Issues Persist”

Since the FCC last sought comment, consumers and advocates have continued to voice accessibility concerns.

“Since the commission last invited comment on these issues, consumers and other stakeholders have raised ongoing concerns about difficulties consumers face when attempting to access closed captioning display settings across a host of technologies and services,” the FCC wrote. “For instance, the commission has received consumer complaints regarding user interfaces and the difficulty of adjusting closed captioning settings. Furthermore, comments received earlier this year in response to a related public notice concerning the commission’s implementation of the CVAA suggest that these issues persist.”

Comments can be filed using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System at www.fcc.gov/ecfs. All filings must reference MB Docket No. 12-108. Comments are due Feb. 17, with replies to comments due March 4.