FCC Gives Nod to SMPTE Standard for Online Closed Captioning

In a ruling that promises to accelerate the transition of broadcast content to the Internet and make it more easily accessible to tens of millions of people with disabilities, the U.S Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has declared the closed-captioning standard for online video content developed by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) to be a safe harbor interchange and delivery format.

The ruling means that captioned video content distributed via the Internet that uses the SMPTE standard – known officially as SMPTE Timed Text – will comply with the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), a landmark U.S. law designed to ensure the accessibility, usability, and affordability of broadband, wireless, and Internet technologies for people with disabilities.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 54.4 million people reported some level of disability and 35 million reported a severe disability in 2005.

The standard is available at no charge from SMPTE at www.smpte.org/standards.

“The ruling by the FCC ensures that all people, including people with disabilities, have access to and can enjoy online and Web-enabled programming,” says Ann Marie Rohaly, who chaired the Society’s standards effort.  “It also provides an unambiguous roadmap for broadcasters and other content providers who want to put more content online, or accelerate efforts already underway, and ensure they meet CVAA requirements.”

Free SMPTE Standards Webinar To Focus On Applying SMPTE Timed Text
To help motion-imaging professionals understand how to apply the SMPTE Timed Text standard, the Society will host an interactive Webinar on the subject. The Webinar will take place on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 18:00 UTC/10:00 Pacific/13:00 Eastern. Information and registration details are available at http://bit.ly/zzSVHY.

The SMPTE Timed Text standard, largely based on the Timed Text Markup Language (TTML) 1.0 of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is already used in production environments to repurpose television content for Internet use; is the basis for subtitles and captions in the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem’s UltraViolet format for commercial movie and television content; shares a common base with subtitles for Internet-delivered television in the U.K. and other European countries; and is currently being used by several video services and Internet video players.

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