SMPTE Makes Closed-Captioning Standard Freely Available, Widening Access to Broadband Video for Individuals with Disabilities

White Plains, NY, 3 May - As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepares to adopt rules to ensure individuals with disabilities can fully utilize and enjoy Internet-delivered video content, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) today announced that it would make its standard for closed-captioning of online video content (known as SMPTE Timed Text and by the designation SMPTE 2052) available free of charge. SMPTE is the worldwide leader in motion-imaging standards and education for the communications, media, and entertainment industries.

"SMPTE Timed Text enables broadcasters to expand the use of their existing TV captions into the online media space, while ensuring the preservation of their integrity. Its use will permit the industry to more rapidly migrate programming with captions to the Web and ensure that all consumers' online experiences will be at least as rich as they enjoy on TV today," said Clyde Smith, Senior VP, Global Broadcast Technology, Turner Entertainment Networks and SMPTE Fellow. "We applaud SMPTE for making the SMPTE 2052 documents freely available, as we believe that this step will aid greatly in removing current online media accessibility barriers for those who have special needs."

The SMPTE standard materials are available for download at and

An FAQ about the standard and its use is available at

COAT Praises SMPTE Accessibility Efforts
The decision by SMPTE to make its captioning standard available free of charge has drawn praise from the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT), which advocates for people with disabilities and is providing input on the implementation of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) to ensure accessibility, usability, and affordability of broadband, wireless, and Internet technologies for people with disabilities.
The COAT Steering Committee today issued the following statement in support of SMPTE: "COAT applauds and thanks SMPTE for making publicly available a standard for captioning interoperability between broadcast TV and broadband video programming. COAT encourages all in the captioning industry to follow SMPTE's well-timed decision to release this openly as rules are pending from the FCC on this form of accessibility."

The Steering Committee Organization Members of COAT are the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), American Council of the Blind (ACB), American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), and National Association of the Deaf (NAD). More information about COAT and accessible technology are available at

"People with hearing loss often depend on captions to view video programming," said Brenda Battat, Executive Director of Hearing Loss Association of America. "As more and more video programming reaches the Internet, it's hugely important to ensure that standards are in place allowing captioning to be viewed online. By making this standard publically available, SMPTE has taken a positive step forward that we hope will result in more captioned video content online."

Release of SMPTE Standard Well Timed
Today's announcement comes as the FCC is readying rules for online captions under the CVAA, which is described by COAT as "the most significant piece of accessibility legislation since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990." Among its provisions, the CVAA requires the captioning of previously shown TV programs when they are made available on the Internet.

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. "This is an underserved audience that simply wants to enjoy the same kind of online and Web-enabled programming as the rest of us," said Jenifer Simpson, Senior Director for Government Affairs at the American Association of People with Disabilities. "A freely available SMPTE standard will accelerate availability of captioned video content online, benefitting all of us who use captions."

Open Design Creates Opportunities for Manufacturers, Surety for Content Providers
The SMPTE closed-captioning standard - known officially as SMPTE 2052 - provides a common set of instructions for authoring and distributing captions or subtitles for broadband video content. This design means that TV content providers need only use one method for providing captions rather than custom approaches for different Web browsers or media players - including new digital content and previously captioned analog programs.

Yet the standard also leaves plenty of room for innovation. It is media-device and media-player agnostic, leaving manufacturers free to develop a wide range of products without worrying about interoperability issues. In much the same way that companies develop plug-in modules for Web browsers, the SMPTE standard enables additions to its core closed-captioning capabilities.
"While no technology is ever perfect, we can make life easier for people with disabilities around the world by setting a baseline standard today that is open enough to allow for specific innovations- and we welcome all those interested in accessibility to join our efforts," said SMPTE president Pete Ludé.

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About the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers

The Oscar® Award-winning and Emmy® Award-winning Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) is the leading technical society for the motion imaging industry. As an internationally recognized and accredited standards-setting body, SMPTE develops standards, recommended practices and guidelines, and spearheads educational activities to advance engineering and moving imagery. Since its founding in 1916, the Society has established close to 600 standards, including the physical dimensions of 35mm film and the SMPTE-time code. More recently, it crafted the Digital Cinema Standards, which paved the way for digital movie theaters.

Underscoring SMPTE's leadership in technology and standards development, the Society received a prestigious technical Emmy® Award in January of 2009 for its work in the development of the MXF and GXF file formats. Headquartered in New York, SMPTE is comprised of engineers and other technical specialists, IT, and new media professionals, filmmakers, manufacturers, educators, and consultants in more than 65 countries. They are joined at SMPTE by more than 200 sponsoring corporations, principal players in content creation, production, and delivery for all platforms and in entertainment hardware and software.