This News Release: Text | Word 97
Statements: Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth

fcclogo NEWS

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 21, 2000
David Fiske (202) 418-0513
Megan Stull (202) 418-8163
TTY (202) 418-2555


Washington--The Federal Communications Commission today amended its rules to require closed captioning display capability in digital television receivers. This action ensures that closed captioning services will continue to be available to consumers as the transition from analog to digital broadcasting progresses.

Closed captioning is an assistive technology that allows persons with hearing disabilities to access television programming. Captioning displays the audio portion of programming as text superimposed over the video. Closed captioning information is encoded and transmitted along with the video signal of television broadcasts. 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 Television Decoder Circuitry Act. The Act requires that television receivers with picture screens 13 inches or larger contain built-in decoder circuitry designed to display closed captioned television transmissions. The Act also requires the FCC to ensure that closed captioning services continue to be available to consumers as new technology is developed. In 1991, the FCC amended its rules to include standards for the display of closed captioned text on analog television receivers. The development of digital broadcasting requires that the FCC again update its rules to fulfill its obligations under the Act.

In the Report and Order adopted today, the FCC incorporated sections of industry standard EIA-708-B, "Digital Television (DTV) Closed Captioning" into its rules. The standard provides instructions for the encoding, delivery, and display of closed captioning information for digital television systems. The Commission said that it would require manufacturers to include compliant DTV closed captioning decoder circuitry in DTV devices by July 1, 2002. Devices covered under the rules include DTV sets with integrated "widescreen" displays measuring at least 7.8 inches vertically, DTV sets with conventional displays measuring at least 13 inches vertically, and stand-alone DTV tuners, whether or not they are marketed with display screens.

The Report and Order contains provisions that will allow viewers to choose and alter the color, size, and font of their captioning and to choose between multiple streams of captioning, such as "easy reader" or alternate language captioning. The Commission said that requiring decoders to be able to respond to these various features is necessary to ensure that closed captioning will be accessible for the greatest number of persons who are deaf and hard of hearing.

The Order requires that cable providers and other multichannel video programming distributors transmit captions in a format that will be understandable to the decoder circuitry in digital television receivers.

As provided for in the Commission's rules establishing requirements for the closed captioning of video programming adopted in a 1997 Order, programming prepared or formatted for display on digital television receivers before the compliance date of the decoder circuitry rules adopted today is considered "pre-rule" programming. As stated above, this order establishes the compliance date as July 1, 2002. Therefore, programming prepared or formatted for display on digital television after that date will be considered new programming. The existing 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.

Action by the Commission on July 21, 2000, by Report and Order (FCC # 00-259.) Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Powell and Tristani, with Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth concurring in part and dissenting in part.

- FCC -

ET Docket No. 99-254, MM Docket No. 95-176

Office of Engineering & Technology contact: Neal L. McNeil,
     (202) 418-2408, TTY (202) 418-2989
Disabilities Rights Office of Consumer Information Bureau contact: Meryl S. Icove,
     (202) 418-2372, TTY (202) 418-0178

July 21, 2000



1. Decoder Operation

The Order adopts the requirement of Section 9 of EIA-708, with the following modifications:

2. Covered Devices

3. Compliance Dates