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Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
TTY: 202/418-2555

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

July 14, 1999

News Media contact:
David Fiske (202) 418-0500
TTY (202) 418-2555


The Federal Communications Commission today proposed to amend its rules to include requirements for the display of closed captioned text on digital television receivers. This action was taken to ensure that closed captioning services are available in the transition from analog to digital broadcasting.

Closed captioning is an assistive technology that allows persons with hearing disabilities to enjoy television programming. Through captioning, the audio portion of programming is displayed as text superimposed over the video. Closed captioning information is encoded and transmitted along with the video signal of television broadcasts. The text is not ordinarily visible. In order to display closed captions, viewers must use either a set-top decoder or a television receiver with integrated decoder circuitry.

In 1990, Congress passed the Telecommunications Decoder Circuitry Act. The Act requires that television receivers with picture screens 33 centimeters (13 inches) or larger contain built-in decoder circuitry designed to display closed captioned television transmissions. The Act also requires that the FCC take appropriate action to ensure that closed captioning services continue to be available to consumers. In 1991, the FCC amended its rules to include standards for the display of closed captioned text on analog television receivers. Today, the development of digital broadcasting requires that the FCC again update its rules to fulfill it obligations under the Act.

Today, the FCC proposed to incorporate sections of industry standard EIA-708-A into its rules. The standard provides instructions for the encoding, delivery, and display of closed captioning information for digital television systems. It supports user options which enable captioned displays to be customized by a viewer. For example, closed caption decoders functioning pursuant to the standard may permit viewers to change various attributes of caption text such as its font, spacing, color, or screen position. This will allow viewers to change the appearance of captions to suit their personal needs or tastes. The FCC proposes to require digital television receivers be capable of receiving and displaying closed captioning data which is formatted pursuant to the EIA standard.

In 1997, the Commission adopted rules to phase-in the closed captioning of analog video programming. The rules require an increasing amount of captioned new programming over an eight-year transition period with 100% of all new nonexempt programming required to be captioned by January 1, 2006.

Once standards for the display of closed captions on DTV receivers are adopted, programming prepared for display on DTV receivers will be subject to the transition schedule for the captioning of new programming. This will ensure that consumers who purchase DTV receivers will be able to enjoy the advanced features of digital captioning.

Action by the Commission on Wednesday, July 14, 1999 by Notice of Proposed Rule Making (FCC 99-180)

Office of Engineering and Technology contact: Neal L. McNeil, (202) 418-2408, TTY (202) 418-2989. <>

Alternative formats (computer diskette, large print, audio cassette and Braille) are available to persons with disabilities by contacting Martha Contee at (202) 418-0260, TTY (202) 418-2555, or at The Notice of Proposed Rule Making can also be downloaded at:

ET Docket No. 99-xx
ET Report No. 99-xx

Docket WT 96-198