Congress Passes Closed Captioning Bill for Online TV

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that will eventually bring closed captions to web television. The Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 forces broadcasters to add closed captions to all programming that previously aired on TV.

Online-exclusive content from big broadcasters is exempt for now, as are any online-only video makers. However, the law includes stipulations to revisit the issue if broadcasters are eventually going to distribute a majority of their programming exclusively online.

Online video platforms like YouTube (s GOOG) and Hulu have been ramping up their own efforts to provide closed captions in recent months, and Matt Knopf from the closed captioning technology provider Plymedia told me a few weeks ago that this also makes economic sense. Having transcripts of your video helps search engines to discover your content, which makes captions a natural SEO tool.

The bill was originally passed by the House in late July, with the Senate giving it an unanimous thumbs-up in August. A minor amendment passed the Senate last week, and President Obama has now about two weeks to sign or veto the bill — and it’s virtually certain that he will sign, given the fact that there has been bipartisan support for and no major opposition to the bill.

Image courtesy of Flickr user niceness.

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