What's the Difference Between Closed Captioning and Subtitles?

In 1972, viewers of Julia Child’s cooking program The French Chef watched for the first time as a series of sentences scrolled across the bottom of their television screens. It was the first program to air with closed captioning. Today, there are two ways viewers can read what’s going on in their favorite programs: subtitles and closed captioning. Though the terms are used interchangeably, there’s a notable difference between the two. Once you understand the distinction, you’ll be able to spot it every time. Closed captioning appears as text on the screen and is always in the same language as the original content. Closed captioning was designed with the hard-of-hearing and deaf communities in mind. In the United States, the FCC requires all video programming distributors to provide closed captioning. Unfortunately, not every program or video has it available, which is why you will see subtitles instead. So what exactly are subtitles? Subtitles are when only spoken dialogue is displayed with the text on the screen. It’s typically intended to make content available to viewers in different languages. Subtitles don’t attempt to describe background sounds like closed captioning, and they aren’t intended for the hearing-impaired community. Just in case you’re wondering what the captions are that programs include themselves, they’re called “open captioning.” Open captions are always in view and can’t be turned off by the viewer. They're typically used when what’s being said could not clearly be understood without open captioning.