COMMISSIONER JESSICA ROSENWORCEL
Closed Captioning of Video Programming
, CG Docket No. 05-231; Telecommunications for the
Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. Petition for Rulemaking
Over the next several years, television will change more than over the last several decades. The
way we watch will change—when we watch, where we watch, and how we watch. Families huddling
together in one room basking in the glow of a single screen will give way to gatherings with many screens
and multiple programs. I know. It is already happening with my family, in my home.
But as opportunities to view video expand, old problems can linger. Today we address one of
those problems. We address closed captioning.
It has been more than a decade and a half since the Commission adopted its first rules governing
the provision of television closed captioning. These rules, put in place in the aftermath of the
Telecommunications Act of 1996, sought to make widespread access to technology that facilitates
television viewing by the deaf and hard of hearing. Over time, however, captioning quality was uneven
and our enforcement was limited. So a decade ago a group of advocates representing individuals who are
deaf or hard of hearing filed a petition for rulemaking and asked us to fix these problems.
That is what we do, at long last, today. Our new rules put in place captioning standards for
accuracy, synchronicity, program completeness, and placement. We establish best practices for video
programmers and captioners. We update policies involving live programming and Electronic Newsroom
Technique. And we seek comment on a range of issues to further enhance accessibility and improve our
It has taken time, but we are finally making good on the promise that television programming
should be understandable to the non-hearing person as it is to the person who can to hear. Our actions
will improve television accessibility for the estimated 36 million Americans who are deaf or have hearing
loss—and the 40 million Americans over the age of 65 who experience varying degrees of hearing loss at
some point in their lives.
Going forward, I believe we also have other promises to keep. Today we address the closed
captioning problems that plagued us in the past. But we also must address the way we will watch going
forward. Television viewing is changing fast, our policies must keep pace.
Three years ago, Congress passed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.
Among other things, this law directed the Commission to require closed captioning of IP-delivered video
programming that is also available on television. That means programming that is aired on television and
later available online also comes with closed captioning. We made good on this promise for full-length
programming, but we fell short for television video clips. I think this is something we need to fix.
Because our accessibility policies must be about more than just how we watch now—they must be about
the future. And the future of viewing, for all of us, including the deaf and hard of hearing, will involve
more than gathering around the traditional television screen for programs of uniform 30- or 60-minute
length. It will involve many screens, with more television programming sliced and diced into smaller
increments, for later viewing online.
Still, today is an important milestone in our accessibility policies. We would not be crossing the
finish line but for the steadfast advocacy of so many Americans with disabilities. They had to wait too
long. But kudos to the Chairman for picking up that slack with speed and bringing us to where we need
to be. Thank you also to Karen Peltz Strauss and the efforts of the Disability Rights Office of the
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau as well as the Media Bureau.
Finally, thank you to Claude Stout and Tai Jenson for joining us today. Claude is one the heroes
who walks among us, a tireless champion for access for all. And Tai, you are following in his footsteps—
at an early age. So thank you, too, for your presentation today.