Big broadcasters will soon have to provide closed captions for any of their TV shows online. A bill mandating such captioning was passed by the House yestrday after receiving unanimous support by the Senate. It’s now on President Obama’s desk, awaiting his almost certain signature.


The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that will eventually bring closed captions to web television. The Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 forces broadcasters to add closed captions to all programming that previously aired on TV.

Online-exclusive content from big broadcasters is exempt for now, as are any online-only video makers. However, the law includes stipulations to revisit the issue if broadcasters are eventually going to distribute a majority of their programming exclusively online.

Online video platforms like YouTube and Hulu have been ramping up their own efforts to provide closed captions in recent months, and Matt Knopf from the closed captioning technology provider Plymedia told me a few weeks ago that this also makes economic sense. Having transcripts of your video helps search engines to discover your content, which makes captions a natural SEO tool.

The bill was originally passed by the House in late July, with the Senate giving it an unanimous thumbs-up in August. A minor amendment passed the Senate last week, and President Obama has now about two weeks to sign or veto the bill — and it’s virtually certain that he will sign, given the fact that there has been bipartisan support for and no major opposition to the bill.

Image courtesy of Flickr user niceness.

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  1. Curious. How will they actually enforce this? Basically if you want to keep having a TV license, you need to close caption your content online?

    I’m all for closed captioning online, but this seems odd. I don’t get how they’d actually enforce this law.

    1. My understanding is that this particular issue is essentially an amendment to the Communications Act. So yeah, it would be enforced the same way as regulations for traditional broadcasts.

  2. [...] Here’s the article. It was published yesterday. As you may remember, the House passed the bill back in July. Afterward, a minor amendment was made to the bill, the Senate passed it last week. President Obama is expected to sign or veto the bill within two weeks, I’m pretty sure he’ll sign it though. [...]

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    [...] screencasts that are accessible for the deaf, and is therefore vital for organizations that are required by legislation (or will be) to create web content that is accessible. It’s also useful if the [...]

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