Digital Closed Captioning and Video Description Working Group
Progress Report
December 4, 2009
Brian Markwalter
Consumer Electronics Association

Purpose of the Working Group

“to conduct an assessment of closed captioning and video description technical issues associated with the switch to digital television (DTV transition), and to recommend to the Commission’s Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) solutions to any technical problems arising with these services in conjunction with the DTV transition.”

Charged With

  • Identify current and anticipated problems with the transmission and display of digital closed captions and video description
  • Evaluate the closed captioning and video description capabilities of digital equipment
  • Develop solutions to ensure that closed captions and video description are passed through intact to consumers

First Meeting

  • Monday, May 18, 2009
    • Broad discussion on types of accessibility problems
    • Review of CSD Captioning Survey
    • Partitioning of problem and formation of subgroups


  • CC-1 Data Needed for Assessing Problems with Closed Captioning
  • CC-2 Collection of Lessons Learned and Unsolved Mysteries
  • CC-3 Video Description Challenges and Issues
  • CC-4 Consumer Information and Needs
  • CC-5 HDMI and Video Sources

Second Meeting

  • Monday, November 9, 2009
    • Progress reports from subgroups which had all met multiple times by teleconference
    • Discussion of resource constraints, lack of identifiable low hanging fruit, (how to make) recommendations to CAC

Data Needed Subgroup

  • Identify "data needed for assessing problems with closed captioning“
  • …by video programming distributors, equipment manufacturers and providers of captioning services
  • List of questions leads to answers leads to a solution database
  • Overlap with “Lessons Learned” and “HDMI”
  • How to operate, populate and fund a database

Lessons Learned & Unsolved Mysteries Subgroup

  • 22 members – including broadcasters, MVPDs, manufacturers, associations; Chair Graham Jones, NAB
  • Collecting examples of captioning problems and solutions from numerous sources
  • Collecting and analyzing captioning problems as yet unsolved, documenting solutions where possible
    • Capturing DTV bitstreams off-air, also looking at some provided by MVPDs
    • CEA is funding an expert consultant for caption data analysis
    • Methods for capture and analysis established
    • User Guide prepared for use by volunteers from deaf community
  • Identifying process improvements to assist industry and consumers remedy their captioning problems
  • Work is ongoing
    • Large number of problems still to be collected, reviewed, and documented
  • Goal is for interim report and recommendations during Q1 2010
    • How much can be done depends on available resources
    • More time will likely be needed for a final comprehensive report and recommendations
    • Issues of confidentiality and liability in public reporting of specific problems have still to be resolved

Caption delivery chain in a cable network with sample monitoring points (PDF version)

Diagram of the caption delivery chain in a cable network with sample monitoring points.

Video Description Challenges Subgroup

  • Challenge: reliable delivery of and access to video description audio services
  • Appears to be the result of a lack of complete understanding and agreement by program providers and distributors regarding use of a common set of metadata descriptors which are essential for proper operation of HDTV receivers and set-top boxes
  • CEA has established a working group on DTV audio to work through these issues and establish a consensus around best practices
  • Once guidelines are published, changes in both professional and consumer hardware and software *may* be necessary
  • Effects on legacy equipment and programming will need to be examined, as will potential interim solutions
  • The other primary element of this subgroup's scope is the need for accessible (audible) user interfaces in consumer electronics equipment so that all users can independently navigate and control their own home media systems
  • Preliminary work on this issue has begun among CEA and groups representing the needs of blind people, but has yet to be taken up tangibly by this subgroup

Consumer Information Subgroup

  • Task 1 – Whether outreach materials being disseminated by the FCC and industry are useful for consumers using closed captions
  • Task 2 - develop a wish list of consumers’ concerns about closed captioning, including elements that should be factored into the design of consumer electronics equipment
  • General agreement on need for
    • Easy to understand operating guides on how to set up and activate captioning and video description features on video equipment
    • Searchable service provider and manufacturer websites to aid consumers
    • FCC should provide a single web portal to a clearinghouse that can be used by consumers to find information about accessing closed captioning and video description

Suggested FCC Actions

  • Produce additional public advisories on:
    • complaint processes
    • how video devices interconnect with each other
    • HDMI
  • Conduct large scale consumer education via mainstream media, including television PSAs
  • Publish articles in consumer organization newsletters, online blogs and websites

HDMI and Video Sources Subgroup

  • Document interaction of video source, including broadcast, subscription video and pre-recorded content, video interface to display and caption decoder availability and location on the user experience for captions
  • Recommend best practices for device interconnections, content captioning and caption decoder placement
  • First part of the scope focuses on an educational component related to helping consumers understand the best way to connect video sources and displays
  • May be component to broader educational recommendations
  • Action underway to document cable-specific information for consumers
  • The real work is still ahead
  • Another component of scope is to work with digital interfaces like HDMI and content formats like BluRay towards best practices
  • HDMI representative to attend next teleconference to discuss future capability and how changes are made to HDMI
  • Agreed to invite BluRay Disc Association to understand what CC capabilities BD recorders will have
Tuesday, November 17, 2015