14th Aug 2017

The beginning of July marked a change in captioning requirements introduced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which covers online video broadcast for live, near-live and pre-recorded video.

The new rules state that video clips broadcast online from live and near-live TV programs should include captioning. The rules for pre-recorded video have included captioning since 2012, for online video broadcast after the content has been shown on TV.

The FCC regulations have been updated to require captioning of video clips, and while there are concessions made for time delays – 12-hours for live programming after the clip is first shown on television, and 8-hours for near-live – the definitions are clear.

What should be included in captioning for online video broadcast?


In short – everything, including slang words and descriptions of non-verbal information, such as sound effects, audience reaction and emotive actions.

Captioning should also be free of spelling or grammar errors, and be punctuated correctly.

Accuracy requirements have been in place since 2014, and state that there are two distinctions for whom is responsible for captioning and accuracy:

  • The video creator – responsible for accuracy and completeness. The video creator also takes responsibility for ensuring the captioning does not interfere physically with the content.
  • The video distributor – responsible for synchronisation and video placement. This also carries a responsibility for ensuring the captioning remains intact and in a recoverable format for display using decoders.

The basic requirements for accuracy have been summarised by the Video Caption Corporation as follows:

‘The closed captioning must match the program audio, including any slang, and contain non-verbal information such as speaker identification, descriptions of music, sound effects, the attitudes and emotions of the speakers, and audience reaction. The closed captions must be free of spelling and grammatical errors, and use appropriate punctuation and capitalization, correct tense and proper singular or plural forms.’

According to the FCC, the delay allowances are in place to cover live programming and online video broadcast, as accuracy cannot be guaranteed during live broadcast. As captioning is done by real people, following a live broadcast and transcribing as they go, the allowable delays reflect the understanding that human error, at least in part, is likely.

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