Multichannel News: Help Needed on Closed Captioning

Imagine watching NCIS without faces because the closed captions obscured them. You could only identify the characters by their hair.

Under the Federal Communications Commission’s closed-captioning order, there are no standards on how captions are to be provided. The quality varies tremendously — from excellent to execrable.

For this reason, it is essential that the FCC implement closed-captioning standards for television. These are issues of direct communication. Issues include misspelled or garbled words; omitted letters or words that are missing entirely; paraphrasing instead of verbatim rendition of the storyline; lack of description of sound effects or music; and lack of identification of speakers. There are also issues regarding ease of communication. These include the use of upper-case letters (which are harder to read) rather than mixed-case letters; inappropriately using roll-up captions rather than pop-on captions; and the placement of captions in locations that obscure relevant information such as people’s faces or descriptive banners.