Volicon has a long history of monitoring closed-captioning text and today the observer platform is installed in over 90% of the broadcasters providing this capability. The effective monitoring of closed-captioning has become essential because in 2014 the FCC implemented its first quality standards for closed-captioning. Those standards have since been finalized, and they will go into effect in January 2015.

In short, these FCC closed caption quality standards create four subjective standards for closed captions: accuracy in indicating dialog, sounds, music, and speakers; synchronicity, in that captions are aligned in time and appear at a speed that can be read; completeness, meaning the full program duration; and placement so that captions do not occlude faces, key graphics, or important on-screen text.

These standards are important today not only because the FCC has made them law, but also because quality captioning is critical to viewers’ quality of experience (QoE). High-quality closed-captioning makes programming more accessible and consumable for a broad array of viewers. As much as 25 percent of viewers, including the hard of hearing and many others, take advantage of closed-captioning at home, at the gym, in restaurants, and in other venues in which audio is low or nonexistent.

Meeting these new captioning standards will be challenging not only because the bar has been set higher, but also because networks and video programming providers (VPDs) will likely field a much higher volume of complaints about captioning now that the law addresses quality. To handle both of these factors effectively, providers need a way to monitor to improve caption quality and to respond to captioning inquiries quickly and unambiguously without increasing OPEX — the time or human resources dedicated to closed-captioning monitoring. The Volicon Observer system allows users to easily achieve these objectives.

Originally engineered to enable broadcasters to address compliance requests including captioning, Volicon’s Observer technology has evolved into the preeminent compliance solution. The system continually records broadcast content and subsequently enables fast access to suspect segments, which can be clipped and exported with burned-in closed-captioning that serves as unambiguous proof of compliance, or lack thereof.

Equipped with extended capabilities, the Observer Media Intelligence Platform empowers broadcasters not only to monitor aired content and ensure compliance with standards and regulations governing loudness, metadata, decency, and captions, but also to repurpose content — complete with accurate retimed captioning — for the Web, social media platforms, and mobile services. Given the 2010 CVAA online captioning law, this is a critical step in delivering compliant captioned content and, in turn, taking advantage of new revenue-generation opportunities.

For caption-quality spot checks, the Observer’s live multiviewer feature provides media and data — an accurate closed-captioning overlay — to enable periodic at-a-glance review with respect to timing, accuracy, completeness, and correctness. Manual review functions allow users to dial back to the target time and date and check caption quality. The Observer system also can generate a closed-captioning compliance report that provides detail and summary performance data on both programs and channels. By providing alarms when bad captions are identified, the Observer system supports proactive handling of captioning issues.

The flexibility of the system in handling multiple caption tracks and all caption formats (608, 708, SCTE-20), and even post-set-top box, means that users can perform caption checks from origination to STB output. Through a partnership with Nexidia, Volicon also offers an automated solution that brings efficiency to caption-quality compliance in even the largest media facilities.

Compliance is at the heart of the Observer system, and with it, users can stand prepared for Jan. 15, when the FCC standards governing captioning finally come into full effect.