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Have you ever wondered what closed captioning is, when it was invented or how it’s being used today? Learn more about closed captioning in this week’s latest Audicus blog!

The History of Closed Captioning

Closed captioning is a form of electronic text that corresponds to the auditory dialogue present in television and other forms of visual media. This feature can be used for a variety of contexts.

Televisions that are located in very noisy settings like lounges may use closed captioning so that people can follow the dialogue of whatever program is showing. Projector systems that have limited sound capabilities or don’t use sound at all can also make use of closed captioning. Closed captioning normally benefits individuals that are deaf or experience hearing loss, but it can be a handy tool for everyone to use.

Closed captioning was first displayed in 1971 at the First National Conference on Television for the Hearing Impaired, a program geared towards technology for individuals with hearing loss. This was possible due to the efforts of the National Bureau of Standards and ABC-TV to collaborate on a new form of technology that sends text via television signals.

The National Captioning Institute (NCI) aired the first closed-caption television show in 1980 and also paired up with ITT Corporation to create the world’s first caption-decoding microchip.

The Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 requires newly-crafted television sets 13 inches or larger to have caption-decoding technology if they are to be sold in the U.S.

In 1990 the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) created legislation requiring public settings such as bars and museums to have available captioning for televisions. Years later, U.S. congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which mandates that digital television receivers have caption-decoding equipment.

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 acts as a supplement to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by requiring broadcasters to give captioning for television programs that circulate through the web and requiring a closed-captioning button on boxes that decode HDTV.

The Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission mandates that cable operators, broadcasters and other video programming distributors need to perform closed captioning.

More specifically, the captioning must be present in the entirety of the program being run if possible, must correspond with the actual audio of the program being spoken, must be generated at a practical reading speed, and must not obscure key images of the visual program. However, this does not apply to some forms of visual media including DVDs, home videos, video games, or public service announcements that haven’t been federally funded and run shorter than 10 minutes.

If you would like to file a complaint to the FCC regarding an unlawful lack of closed captioning, you can send a complaint online or call 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).

The Netflix Suit

At the beginning of last month one federal appeals court governed that Netflix does not have to give any notice to the ADA, as Netflix is an online medium that doesn’t occupy a physical space.

The incident involving Netflix began in 2011 when Donald Cullen sued the business because it did not caption all of its videos, a major issue for people who are deaf or have hearing loss. The lawsuit ended in 2013 with the verdict that Netflix would not be held accountable, and the recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Repeals will sustain the unaccountability of Netflix with regard to providing closed captioning.

By: Aaron Rodriques