About Closed Captioning

“Closed captioning” is the display of visible text for spoken audio, most often seen on the bottom of the screen and sometimes used interchangeably with the term “subtitles.” The symbol indicates a program is closed captioned, as does the indication of subtitles in a DVD menu. The following is some basic information about captioning.

Captioning Laws:

Types of Captioning:

There are several different types of captioning:

  • Open captions – appear on all receivers and can be viewed without a decoder
  • Closed captions – transmitted with TV programs to the TV receiver on one or more of the 21 lines that comprise the vertical blanking interval (VBI) on the TV
  • Verbatim captions – word for word of all that is said
  • Edit captions or instructional captions – summarize ideas and paraphrase
  • Pre-recorded captions – used for videos and DVDs

Captioning Timeline:

  • 1970 – National Bureau of Standards (NBS) began research in cooperation with ABC to standardize telecommunications time stamps, which led to the suggestion of developing captioning.
  • 1971-1972 – Captioning first previewed in the public – The Mod Squad and The French Chefare the first captioned TV programs
  • 1976 – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set aside line 21 for the transmission of closed caption and PBS developed caption editing
  • 1979 – The National Captioning Institute (NCI) is created
  • 1980 – The first closed captioned TV series – The ABC Sunday Night Movie, The Wonderful World of Disney, and Masterpiece Theater – were broadcast for those who had caption decoders
  • 1982 – The NCI developed real-time captioning
  • 1990 – All TVs with screens of 13” or larger are required to be able to receive and display captioning by 1993; Americans with Disabilities Act (ADAAA) of 1990 requires all federally funded public service announcements to be captioned
  • 1992 – The FCC adopts technical standards for captioning on cable systems
  • 1997 – the FCC adopts rules that increase the amount of programming requiring captioning
  • 1998 – The FCC began requiring the gradual phase-in of captioning for all video programming following the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which added Section 713 to the communications Act requiring them to prescribe rules and an implementation schedule for TV video programming
  • 2006 – The FCC began requiring that 100% of all new programming must be captioned (pre-rule captioning of analog programming will be retroactive to be completed by 2008)
  • 2010 – FCC requirement for new Spanish-language programming to be 100% captioned goes into effect (pre-rule captioning of analog programming will be retroactive to be completed by 2012)