1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Laws Affecting Closed Captioning on Television

By

Updated February 26, 2010

Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990

Many years ago, the closed captioning industry faced a chicken or egg problem. Broadcasters did not want to caption more until there were more television sets capable of receiving captions. Consumers did not want to buy more closed captioning decoders until there was more captioned television programming. The solution was the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990.

This Act, which took effect July 1, 1993, required all television receivers with screens 13 inches or larger, that were made in the United States or imported into the United States, to be capable of displaying closed captions. Furthermore, the Act also empowered the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action to ensure that future video technology was also capable of displaying closed captions.

This legislation also applies to computers with monitors at least 13 inches, digital televisions with smaller 7.8 vertical screens that are equivalent to 13 inch analog tvs, and digital set-top boxes. Unfortunately, the TV Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 as written does not apply to today's modern television reception devices such as cell phones.

Telecommunications Act of 1996

When the Television Decoder Circuitry Act did not result in a substantial increase in captioning, Congress had to step in again. This time, with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. As written, the Act directed the Federal Commmunications Commission to take stock of how much was captioned, then develop a timetable for phasing in mandatory captioning. When the FCC released the final rulemaking, the key dates were:

English language programming
  • As of January 1, 2006, and thereafter, 100% of the programming distributor's new nonexempt video programming [programming produced after January 1, 1998] must be provided with captions. [certain types of programming is exempt from captioning requirements]
  • As of January 1, 2008, and thereafter, 75% of the programming distributor's pre-rule [older programming, from before January 1, 1998.] nonexempt video programming being distributed and exhibited on each channel during each calendar quarter must be provided with closed captioning.
Spanish language programming
  • As of January 1, 2010, and thereafter, 100% of the programming distributor's new nonexempt Spanish language video programming must be provided with captions.
  • As of January 1, 2012, and thereafter, 75% of the programming distributor's pre-rule nonexempt Spanish language video programming being distributed and exhibited on each channel during each calendar quarter must be provided with closed captioning.

The rest of the Act outlines what type of programming is exempt. For example, programming aired between 2 am and 6 am is exempt. There is also an exemption for "undue burden" based on factors such as cost and financial resources.

Sources

Television Decoder Circuitry Act, National Association of the Deaf. Accessed September 2009. http://www.nad.org/issues/civil-rights/television-decoder-circuitry-act

United States Access Board. Accessed September 2009. http://www.access-board.gov/Sec508/guide/1194.24-decoderact.htm

Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology. Accessed September 2009. http://www.coataccess.org/node/13

The Telecommunications Act of 1996. Federal Communications Commission. Accessed September 2009. http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/dtftele.html

Closed Captioning of Video Programming. Federal Communications Commission. http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/captioning_regs.html

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Hearing Loss
  4. Hearing Loss
  5. Accessibility
  6. Captioning
  7. Closed Captioning Laws - Laws Affecting Closed Captioning on Television

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.