Closed Captioning. Most people have heard of it or used it, but few know how it really works, where it comes from, who pays for it, or the federal guidelines that regulate it. To most, it just pops up on the screen after clicking the CC button on the remote and only the deaf use it. Closed captioning is taken for granted; it is available on every television after all. All you have to do is turn it on. But that was not always the case.
Originally intended as an option on television sets, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), made it mandatory to have the decoders for closed captioning built into any analog television 13 inches or larger beginning in July 1993. Digital TVs followed suit in July 2002. Not only did the FCC decree that TVs had to include these special decoders, but it also made decisions about the capabilities of these decoders as well, such as fonts, font sizes, colors, and ability to change settings to according to personal tastes. Everyone from advertisers to cable companies to the United States government pay for this feature.
The hearing impaired do make up the majority of users; however, there is a growing need for its use in the classroom to aid in building reading skills. Even though mixed letters (both upper and lowercase) are easier to read, descending letters such as g, j, p, q, and y typically get cut off in closed caption formatting making it harder to read. A defining feature of closed captioning is that background noises are also displayed on the screen in italicized lettering to differentiate it from character dialogue. This is one of the main differences between closed captioning and subtitles. Subtitles translate from one language to another, while closed captioning attempts to give the viewer context cues with background noises, character actions, and dialogue. Also, closed captioning is available in Spanish, which needed with the growing population of Spanish-speaking only consumers.
Over the years, the need to have closed captioning has increased by leaps and bounds. Fortunately the technology is keeping pace with necessity. And it is everywhere, not just televisions. Listed below are links that can provide more in-depth information.
History of Development – (PDF Document) History of original development of Closed Captioning as well as the various formats and different types of captioning.
Captions and subtitles – Information on the more specific differences between captions and subtitles.
Finding Closed Captioning – Information on how to turn CC on.
Laws and Standards – The FCC regulations for closed captioning.
Consumer Facts - Information about English as well as Spanish language programming.
Canadian Programming Standards – (PDF Document) Tons of detailed information relating to the requirements of closed captioning in Canada.
Alternate Use for Closed Captioning – How closed captioning is used in today’s classroom.
Types of captioning – Site that shows the different types of captioning.
Caption Fonts – FAQs about fonts, colors, symbols.
Market Research – Information about section 508, the standards of CC and market research into pricing and availability.
Federal Regulations – Explores Titles II, III, and IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act in reference to closed captioning
FAQs – Everything you always wanted to know about closed captioning.
Live Programming – Information about adding CC to live programming.
Captioning different mediums – Site that explores how CC differs on DVDs versus TVs.
Spanish language closed captioning – Information for the Spanish version.