Should Closed-Captioning of Web Video Be Mandated By Government?

Should Closed Captioning of Web Video Be Mandated By Government?

I interviewed Josh Miller of 3PlayMedia, to talk about Congress' recent passing of two bills that will mandate closed-captioning of television programming over to the Internet. We discuss the questions: Will other "professional" online video programs be next? And, is legislation necessary, or will organizations determine that transcription and captioning of video content has a worthwhile ROI regardless of any mandate? [powerpress]

Bills' Passing Is Step Forward For Web Video Accessibility

Should Closed Captioning of Web Video Be Mandated By Government?This month Congress unanimously passed the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (S. 3304) and the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (H.R. 3101) As Josh explained in his own post at 3PlayMedia, the two bills that have been passed will expand the requirement for web video captioning and accessibility services.  Specifically,

  1. They will require that any captioned television program be captioned when delivered over the Internet, and;
  2. They also require all devices large enough for video to be equipped to support captioning functionality.

Josh does explain in his post that while H.R. 3101 and S. 3304 have more widespread implications for television-related programming, they are still "a significant step forward" in providing a mandate for closed-captioning in online video with professional publishers and platforms.

Why Online Video Professionals Should Care

Josh explains that the original bill had called for all "television-type" programming distributed over the Internet to be captioned.  To summarize the language and intent of the original proposed bill, any professional content created solely for Internet distribution would also have to be captioned, not including user-generated content as seen on YouTube. "While the language is a bit vague in what would have been included, it is clear that the mandate for captions would have been far more widespread than the simplified bills that ended up getting passed." Says Josh.

Arguments FOR Having Closed Captions In Online Video

  • Increased accessibility – "Captions provide a critical means of consuming video content for the 36 million people in the U.S. who are deaf or hard of hearing." Says Josh. "Captions also offer a method to watch the television in environments in which the sound cannot be used.”
  • Improved Web search, SEO, and ROI value – "Captions have a far greater potential benefit to Internet users than to television viewers." Says Josh. "The Internet is driven by text.  Since videos cannot be read, indexed, or navigated efficiently without the text equivalent, time-synchronized transcripts not only provide a worthwhile accessibility benefit, but they also have additional value that only the Internet could unlock.  For starters, text provides a means for search – of the SEO variety and within a large archive.”

Arguments AGAINST Having Captions In Online Video

  • Added work and costs. One of those arguments coming back to the whole thing about the Internet-only shows, says Josh, is "If you start mandating things like that, where it's quite inexpensive to produce content and post it and share it, if all of a sudden those people are now forced to caption or transcribe their content, then the cost is far higher than what they initially started out at, and they may actually be dissuaded from creating the content." Josh, however, wanted to clarify that "this is completely not the point of this particular legislation.”
  • Regulation complexities. The other argument is, how do you regulate this? "With so much content out there and it's far more infinite than television, that regulation of this becomes a big issue as well." Says Josh. "So there are definitely reasons on why this becomes difficult to make this more of a sweeping bill. Even existing bills previously passed [on accessibility with the Web, such as 508 compliance - has proven difficult to enforce.”
  • Definition problems. Josh also acknowledges that there's a huge gray area of what's television-type programming, and what's not. "So the internet actually, as wonderful as it is in bringing all this content to us, actually makes it difficult as well to figure out, where can we draw the line, and who really should be captioning their content?" he says.

Is Closed-Captioning Of More Web Video In Our Future (government mandate?)

I asked Josh, does he think that future bills will be introduced and passed in Congress that go further with mandating captions with more types of web video content?

"I do, and I don't say that as something I get excited about because of the business that we're in, but because this is the direction that I see the Internet is going." He responds. "It's so much more communication now – certainly in the enterprise, but even in education and all over – is being conducted with video. Classes are being conducted online; and people stop traveling for meetings because they're doing video conference calls, webinars and webcasts. If you look online, video is just through the roof. And the whole point of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the first place was to grant equal access for all in these types of situations. And I think, hopefully, a lot of businesses will see the benefit before they're told that they have to do it, since there are a lot more benefits with the internet, and there's a lot more that you can do with that transcript. But I wouldn't be surprised if it came down to the point where something had to be mandated more explicitly, just to make sure that one was being left out.”

The InterWeb/Television blur – Google TV, Facebook, and Online Video Publishers

The following is my interview I conducted with Josh by e-mail correspondence…

Grant: Josh, What happens when shows from the web/net are regularly available to watch on a digital television? Does that further blur the lines?

Josh: There's definitely line blurring going on, as content is made available from multiple sources on multiple devices.  More content is out there for people to consume and the sources widely vary in their disposable resources, making legislation extremely difficult.  Nobody wants regulation to get in the way of content being created, which is what would likely happen if independent web publishers all of a sudden had to caption all their content.  But if those shows are easily transferred to larger screens, at what point does accessibility [need to] become mandated?  It's a very difficult balance, which is why this round of legislation stops at television programming.  I don't think this bill will silence the outspoken supporters of more captions on the Internet.

Grant: How you think this ruling will affect Google TV?

Josh: If I had to guess, the ruling won't affect Google TV, but Google TV will affect future rulings.  This particular ruling, as I understand it, is more of a first step to start providing parity with content that is already captioned on television.  It certainly expands the reach of IP-based content, so it will probably be one of many catalysts for the next round of legislation.

Grant: Facebook has recently become a regular video content publisher with it's own live show, and some analysts predict it planning to become a competitor to Google TV. Any comments on how this legislation may affect Facebook, or vice-versa?

Josh: It's definitely an interesting development since they have such a captive audience.  It seems like a great test bed for interactive/social TV.  They claim to not be getting into the content production space like UStream, which is one thing, but they could definitely be getting into social/video communication or even social TV (by partnering with more content producers).  Getting premium partners to join in shouldn't be all that difficult should they want to include professional content. This also reinforces the prominence of video on the Internet and video's role as a means of communication.  As this trend continues, accessibility becomes more of a concern, and more difficult to regulate as well.

Closed Captioning Web Video Tips – The Free Option

Here are some tips to creating your own to transcript and closed-captioning for your video (for free)

  • Have good audio. In fact, have the best audio possible. Put much more of any investment of your time and resources into making sure the audio is clear than over the actual image quality of your video. "If the audio is no good, then the alignment won't be, either." Say Josh.
  • Use YouTube's free resources. YouTube already allow everyone to either upload their own transcript that can be synched with their video, or to let YouTube create it's own caption for you with a little time after you upload your video there. I recommend checking out 3Play Media's blog article about free captioning resources: How to create high-quality captions with the help of YouTube (and an existing transcript). You could run your video through Google's tool, and create a draft transcript and edit that, and play around with what might be faster – starting from scratch, or running it through and editing. You can learn more about YouTube's closed captions from our recent detailed post on the subject -In-Depth Look At YouTube Closed Captions, SEO And YouTube Indexing
  • Use 3rd party resources – Another free option is a site called subtitlehorse.org, where you can actually have an interface that allows you to type in your captions and arrange your captions in caption frames – a very nice tool.

Choosing A Professional Closed-Captioning Online Video Service Provider

I asked Josh, for the businesses that do see the ROI benefit, what he recommend they look for with selecting a closed-captioning service for the online video content? Below are quotes on some of his criteria selections:

  • #1 – volume. "If it's really low volume, then it's worth exploring some of the free options. If it's larger volume, then understanding if they firm you're considering can really scale and meet your needs.”
  • #2 – quality. "There's a huge variance in quality. The consumer in transcription and captioning services needs to decide how much that matters. If quality matters, then you will notice the mistakes. If it doesn't, then I would find a solution that just works for you.”
  • #3 – price. "The reality of the situation is first, what you can afford. Pricing can also vary quite a bit. There's always going to be some industry vernacular or specialized vocabulary when you're dealing with specific industries or academics, or whatever it may be. And so, in that case, I think you might want to pay attention a little more to quality and understand where the people are sourcing their labor, where the process is and how they build in their quality mechanisms. Those are the things that are worth asking about, and really making sure you know what you're getting for your money.”
  • #4 – features. "What's also good to look at is what can that transcription firm do besides just a transcript? Can they also do time-synchronized transcripts? There are other tools that can really leverage the text data that is linked to the media. When you're talking about Internet content, it's worth thinking through, what else can I get?”

About 3Play Media

Should Closed Captioning of Web Video Be Mandated By Government?Should Closed Captioning of Web Video Be Mandated By Government?Josh Miller is the Co-Founder of 3Play Media – a company that provides transcription and closed-caption tools and services, using a combination of speech recognition technology and human editors. (See an example of their time-synchronized/interactive transcripts with my own audio interview of Josh.)

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What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.VideoLeadsOnline.com/ Ronnie Bincer

    Does the future look like the captions will be made in "dog speak"? Seriously, what languages? Only the original (video) language, or will we be required to make it in other languages?

    Then comes the question, do we CC every word? How much captioned text is enough? I frequently see the captions not showing the "uhh.." or "umm…" sounds. Who decides if all words need to be included in the captions or where you draw the line?

    BTW, I use CC now as I see it may help with SEO.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Lees/100000037903009 Mike Lees

      Youtube Closed Captions can already translate to over 50 languages from English.
      Just select from the menu.

      Interestingly enough. A few years ago I had a German student he spoke very good English and he preferred to watch German films with English spoken words. e.g. "there" and "their" sound the same but different meanings. Translations don't always do this, and can ruin the contexed
      of the Video.

      "BTW, I use CC now as I see it may help with SEO."

      Rest assured It most definitely does help with SEO. Google indexes the contents of the file as well.

      In short yes include the huhh's and umm's.

      Mike

      Captionworld. Says it all.

  • http://www.ineedhits.com/traffic/quickhits.aspx Website Traffic

    Users may have noticed many Universal Music Group videos on YouTube with "Closed Captioned" in the title. Unfortunately, no closed captions are visible.

  • Ken Meyering

    I'd like to announce a new free nonprofit website for creating video
    captions. It emphasizes creating captions for YouTube videos, but it
    will also create captions for any Flash-compatible web-based video file.
    It is also capable of importing captions that have been created by
    YouTube's automated machine-transcription, so that these often
    inaccurate transcriptions can be edited and corrected.

    A fast 3-minute tutorial is at:

    http://youtube.com/videocritter

    The website is at:

    http://videocritter.org

    Please check it out and spread the word among all of your contacts who
    are interested in broadening the reach of web videos to people who are
    deaf or hard of hearing. This website is hosted on Amazon Web Services
    with the Captions database on Amazon Relational Database service, so it
    is stable and capable of scaling to handle very high traffic volumes.

    If you have any questions please contact me at the address below.

    Thank you very much.

    Sincerely,

    Ken Meyering
    VideoCritter Developer

  • Ken Meyering

    I'd like to announce a new free nonprofit website for creating video
    captions. It emphasizes creating captions for YouTube videos, but it
    will also create captions for any Flash-compatible web-based video file.
    It is also capable of importing captions that have been created by
    YouTube's automated machine-transcription, so that these often
    inaccurate transcriptions can be edited and corrected.

    A fast 3-minute tutorial is at:

    http://youtube.com/videocritter

    The website is at:

    http://videocritter.org

    Please check it out and spread the word among all of your contacts who
    are interested in broadening the reach of web videos to people who are
    deaf or hard of hearing. This website is hosted on Amazon Web Services
    with the Captions database on Amazon Relational Database service, so it
    is stable and capable of scaling to handle very high traffic volumes.

    If you have any questions please contact me at the address on the web page.

    Thank you very much.

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