TV captioning for people with hearing loss
Television captioning is necessary
to ensure accessibility for people with hearing loss. Television is the most accessible of the
sound media, because the Federal Government has required that almost
all new televisions support captioning and that much television programming
is captioned. Still, access is far from perfect, with many television
programs not being captioned.
One encouraging recent development is new resolve on the
part of the FCC to ensure that people with hearing loss have access to emergency
information. Here's the scoop on emergency
What about digital TV?
Does it have to be captioned? Are there any additional captioning
requirements? It's the technology of the future. Are we going to lose
all the progress we've made getting regular TV captioned? Read all about
it in our section on
Captioning Digital TV.
Here's our discussion of captioning on high
definition TV (HDTV).
Is Mobile DTV the next big thing?
Here's the scoop on what's happening in
television captioning in countries other than the US!
January 2013 - Closed Captions Help Kids
March 2012 - Researchers revolutionize closed
January 2012 - FCC
Releases Television IP Captioning Rules
January 2012 - Churches File for New Closed-Caption
November 2011 - FCC Requires Religious Broadcasters to
Carry Closed Captioning
October 2011 - FCC Reverses Anglers Order of 2006!
September 2011 - So THAT'S What It's Like to do
February 2011 - First Fully Captioned (Including
Commercials) Super Bowl
February 2011 - COAT Affiliates Ask FCC for Universal
Captioning of Television
February 2011 - Not all Super Bowl Ads Were Captioned!
November 2010 - WGBH Works with Nuance
Communications, Inc. on Effort to Improve the Quality of Live News
October 2010 - FCC Seeks Comments on TV Captioning
September 2010 - Confessions of a Television
May 2010 - Hot News on Televised Early-release Movies
May 2010 - Contact Information for TV Captioning
April 2010 - Television Captioning Rules Explained
to Video Programming Distributors
February 2010 - The FCC Wants Your Captioning
Complaints - And They've Made it Easier for you to Provide Them!
November 2009 - Working to Address Captioning
February 2009 - Super Bowl Advertisement
May 2008 - SF to Require Public TVs to Display
May 2008 - New Software for Locating Recorded
TV Scenes by Captions
February 2008 -
NVRC'S 2008 Super
Bowl Captioned Ad Results
February 2008 - Filing a Television Closed
February 2008 - Captions and Subtitles -
Where We've Been and Where We're Going
February 2008 - The UK Model for Handling
October 2007 - Timeline of closed-captioning
September 2007 -
Workshop - TV Captioning Issues
June 2007 - TV Captioning Problems:
Where's the Action?
September 2006 - Here's the scoop on the
FCC's decisions to grant permanent captioning exemptions that threaten
to undo much of the captioning progress that's been made in the past few
January 2006 - Here's a GREAT history of the
first 25 years of television captioning from the 2005 TDI convention.
December 2005 - Here it is - the definitive
guide on the 2006 captioning requirements - brought to you by the folks
at DHHCAN. What is DHHCAN, you ask? See the description at the end
of this article. This press release discusses the following topics:
- 100% Captioning of TV Programs? Not Exactly.
- Special Requirements for News Programs
- Sending a Complaint
- Visual Presentation of Emergency Information
November 2005 - We normally think of cable companies and broadcasters
as being competitors, and they generally are! But they find themselves
on the same side of the issue of providing standards for television
closed captions. They don't want them! Here's the
article from NVRC News
February 2005 - Ever wonder why advertisers don't ensure that their
television commercials are captioned? Doesn't it seem that a trivial
additional expense would get the message across to many more folks?
are Cheryl Heppner's thoughts on the dismal state of captioning for the
2005 Super Bowl.
August 2004 - The 2006 captioning
requirements are right around the corner. Soon you'll be able to turn on
almost any TV show and have it be captioned, right? It may not be that
easy, as we discuss in this analysis of
captioners available to meet the 2006 requirements.
February 2004 - Ever heard of enCaption?
It's a new automated captioning technology for television news
January 2004 - Television captioning requirements increased on November 2003 - Here's a report from this summer's TDI convention on
the what's happening in the world of television captioning. The workshop
was conducted in a panel format, with participants who have many years
of experience in the industry. Check this out for an insider's
look at television captioning!
October 2003 - It seems that our Federal government has chosen to cut
funding for many popular television programs. Here's
the story and instructions for contacting your Congressperson to
May 2003 - Here's a great summary of television
captioning information and requirements from the FCC.
March 2003 - Interested in the history of captioned television? It's
really quite a story! Here's a brief history from the
National Captioning Institute.
December 2002 - The next step in the gradual phase-in of captioning
on US television is the 30% requirement for old
programming. It takes effect in January 2003.
October 2002 - In an effort to improve the quality of television
captioning, captioning providers are planning to organize
a trade association.
February 2002 - The National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
circulated an informative article about how to file a captioning complaint.
If you're not happy with some of the captioning you've seen, here's
something you can do about it.
August 2001 - WGBH in Boston is well known for its
ongoing efforts to provide accessible programming to people with hearing
loss. A couple of folks from WGBH gave a wonderful presentation
on all the wonderful things in the works at WGBH.
June 2001 - More Closed Captioners Needed
May 2001 - The National Association of the Deaf recently released
their Statement on Captioning.
May 2001 - Remember the FCC decision that denied the Home Shopping
Network petition for a captioning waiver. Well, they appealed it. Here
are the results of that appeal.
January 2001 - The Weather Channel Announces full time captioning.
2000 - Boomers and other fans of old time television will be happy to
know that VITAC has received a Department of Education grant to caption
old time television.
2000 - The Home Shopping Channel recently petitioned the FCC for relief
from the requirement to caption their programming. In June 2000, the FCC
denied that request.
2000 is the first milestone for the implementation of television
captioning a certain percentage of the time. How well are the stations
doing, and exactly what is the captioning law, anyway. Here's a rather
emotional article about captioning law.
1999 - Another
piece of great news is the recent announcement that The Weather Channel
is starting to caption their programming.
Raychellet Williamson is a one-woman crusader to
promote the power of closed captioning on television. With her blessing,
every child at Shannon Elementary where she is principal is watching 60
minutes a day of child-friendly TV this holiday break - with the closed
captioning button turned on. "You are actually reading while you watch
TV," Williamson said. "Hearing the word as it is said and then seeing the
action, to me, that sounds like free Hooked on Phonics!" She kicked off
the no-budget movement around Shannon in November, the day after she heard
Kent State University literacy professor Tim Rasinski speak in a reading
seminar here. "That was November 15," Williamson said. "The next day, I
announced in our morning assembly, 'We were going to be like the Finnish
people this weekend, boys and girls. Let's get started.'" Finland, which
has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, traces its success in
part to a national promotion of closed captioning, Rasinski said in a
Ever since closed video captioning was developed
in the 1970s, it hasn't changed much. The words spoken by the characters
or narrators scroll along at the bottom of the screen, enabling hearing
impaired viewers - or all viewers when the sound is off - to follow along.
Now a team of researchers from China and Singapore has developed a new
closed captioning approach in which the text appears in translucent talk
bubbles next to the speaker. The new approach offers several advantages
for improving the viewing experience for the more than 66 million people
around the world who have hearing impairments.
Around 80 religious programmers have filed for new
financial-hardship exemptions from closed-captioning rules. The Federal
Communications Commission changed the qualifications for exemptions last
October, and notified 590 programmers they would have to file new
petitions for exemptions granted under rules established in 2006. The
deadline for those petitions was last Wednesday. Those who failed to
petition the FCC for a new exemption had to start providing closed
captions by the next day, Thursday, Jan. 19. Previously, closed-captioning
exemptions were based on the Anglers Order, which arose from a petition
filed by "The Christian Angler Outdoors Television Show." The Anglers
order granted exemptions based on the "noncommercial nature and lack of
remunerative value" of the programming. Anglers, and another petitioner,
New Beginning, received permanent exemptions, while another 300
programmers were granted a blanket exemption based on the Angler criteria.
Advocacy groups for the deaf and hard-of-hearing pushed and subsequently
won a review the Anglers order. The commission's October ruling said it
should have considered "all of the petitioners' available resources....
not just the resources allocated for the programs for which the exemptions
were sought." It rescinded the permanent exemptions and required the rest
to demonstrate financial hardship.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is
reversing a decision that gave religious broadcasters an exemption to an
FCC rule requiring closed captioning for the deaf and hearing impaired.
Broadcasters currently exempt from providing closed captioning have 90
days to comply, or obtain another exemption. The Telecommunications Act of
1996 required the FCC to establish a suitable timetable by which
televisionbroadcasters and equipment manufacturers would be required to
provide closed captioning, or a text transcription of the program provided
for those who are deaf or hearing impaired. The FCC required broadcasters
to fulfill the closed captioning requirement by January 2006, but gave an
exemption, called the "Anglers' Order," to small and medium sized
Five years ago, in October 2006, several leading
disability organizations filed for a "Review of the Bureau Order" and a
"Petition for Emergency Stay" at the FCC in regard to what was referred to
as "the Anglers' Order." Today, the FCC overturned the Angler's Order
and the other 300 exemptions to providing captioning on TV that were based
on the Anglers' Order. By way of background -- to illustrate how damaging
the Anglers' Order was, the FCC, from 1997, when it first adopted closed
captioning rules, until mid-2005 -- received fewer than 75 petitions for
undue burden exemptions by providers wanting to be exempted from the
closed captioning requirement. It generally handled these on a
case-by-case basis as the law required. However, from October 2005 through
August 2006, the FCC received over 600 such petitions requesting exemption
of TV captioning. In an unexpected and unprecedented move, the Consumer &
Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) granted two of these petitions in the
Anglers' Order, and during the two weeks that followed, granted an
additional 301 petitions in reliance on the reasoning of that Order. The
Order became known as "the Anglers' Order" as this was the name of one of
the petitioners requesting an exemption. CGB, at that time, appeared to
create a new exemption based on "hardship" and reasoned that non-profit
status and assertions by petitioners of the non-commercial nature of their
programming was sufficient for exemption from captioning of their TV
While you're vegging out watching the Cardinals
and eating pizza, she's furiously typing on her stenographer's keyboard to
make sure the hard-of-hearing audience can enjoy the game. A software
program simultaneously translates what she's typing into English and
transmits it to wherever the broadcast is originating from, then it gets
sent to your TV. "It isn't just the guy on the treadmill in the gym
watching the basketball game," Baker said. Last week, she captioned
weather coverage along the East Coast as millions braced for the arrival
of Hurricane Irene. Baker said she's inspired to do her job because of a
friend in Manhattan -- and the millions like him -- clinging to the TV for
forecast information and relying on captioning because they're hard of
hearing. The audience will read what she's typed within seconds, mistakes
and all. Full
Despite all the hoopla before the big game about
how ALL the commercials would be captioned for the first time ever, that
seems to have not been the case! The story was that all national
commercials would be captioned, but not necessarily the ones provided by
local television. I don't know for sure which ones were local, but I saw
several commercials that appeared to be national that did not include
captions. Now it appears that my impressions were correct. The full report
is available at
Editor: Here's a short comment
from NVRC News about the FCC's lack of action on captioning issues. You're
welcome to share this information, but please be sure to credit NVRC.
On July 23, 2004,
Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI) filed a
Petition for Rulemaking on closed captioning of TV programs with the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Co-signers with TDI were the
Association of Late-Deafened Adults, Hearing Loss Association of America,
National Association of the Deaf, and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Consumer Advocacy Network.
Soon we will hit the third
anniversary of this filing, and we have yet to see any action on the list
of concerns detailed in this petition.
The petition requested that the
- Take steps to ensure that TV
captioning requirements are being met.
- Create a database with
updated contact information so consumers will know who to contact with
- Create a captioning complaint
- Set reporting requirements
for compliance with the law and conduct compliance audits.
- Revise the complaint rules to
require responses to consumer complaints within 30 days.
- Establish fines and penalties
for not complying with the captioning rules.
- Require continuous monitoring
of captioning to ensure that problems are discovered and fixed
- Require that, to meet the
definition of 'captioned' under the current rules, a program meet
standards for completeness, accuracy, readability, and synchroncity with
the audio portion of the program.
Editor: January 1, 2004 was the most recent date on which television
captioning requirements increased. Here's the scoop from NVRC News.
Starting today, January 1, 2004, 75% of all English language programs
prepared or formatted for display on television must be captioned every
quarter of the year. This translates to 1,350 hours of programming per
channel per quarter, an increase of 450 hours per quarter over the
requirement in 2003. In two more years, on January 1, 2006, the
requirement increases to 100%.
If you're doing the math, you have already figured out that the
numbers don't quite add up. That's because some programs that are
repeats of programs shown prior to 1998 (or July 1, 2002 for digital TV
programs). These repeats have a different requirement; only 30% are
required to be captioned per channel per quarter until January 1, 2008
when the rule changes to 75% per channel per quarter.
Spanish language programs are being given until 2010 to be fully
captioned; as of today only 50% of the programs must be captioned; for
Spanish language repeats, the requirement is 30%.
Other programs that are exempt from the regulations are:
- most programs shown between 2-6 am
- locally produced and distributed non-news programs with no repeat
value (e.g. parades and school sports)
- commercials of less than 5 minutes
- programs in languages other than English and Spanish
- programs produced by local public TV stations for use in grades K-12
and postsecondary schools for distribution to individual education
- programs shown on new networks for the first 4 years of their
- public service or promotional announcements shorter than 10 minutes,
unless they are federally funded or produced
- programs by providers with annual gross revenues of less than $3
million (but if they show video programs that are already captioned,
they must show them with the captions)
The FCC has also received a number of petitions in the past two years
from program providers that request an exemption from the captioning
requirement due to high cost. The FCC has not yet ruled on most of them;
however they have turned down previous requests from cable channels such
as the Home Shopping Network.
Claude R. Marx of the Associated Press recently authored an article
regarding the growing shortage of closed captioners. As federal law
requires larger percentages of television programming to be captioned,
the need will increase. Yet schools are producing only half the number
of people required to meet current demand.
To help alleviate this shortage, Congress is considering legislation
to provide $100 million over the next five years to expand training
programs and recruit students. There are currently about eighty
institutions that train students to become closed captioners. Of these,
around twenty institutions throughout the country would receive funding
under the proposed bill.
Approximately 350 captioners working for 90 companies currently
provide captioning services. The required skills are similar to those of
court reporters, but closed captioning requirements are higher, because
the output is transmitted in real time; there is minimal opportunity to
correct mistakes, as there is in court reporting.
For additional information, please point your browser to:
National Captioning Institute (http://www.ncicap.org)
National Court Reporters Association (http://www.ncraonline.org)
Weather Channel began closed captioning in a test mode on Monday,
December 27th, as the first step in a year-long progression that will
eventually result in 20 hours of closed captioning daily on the
all-weather network. The National Captioning Institute (NCI) has
been working with TWC to establish a system for providing the service; a
test of the system was successfully completed on December 16th.
January 1, The Weather Channel will caption five hours of programming:
the 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. time period and the 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. prime viewing time. In June, the amount of closed captioning
on TWC will double with expanded hours of captioning from 5 a.m. to 10
a.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Next January, The Weather Channel will
establish a regular schedule of
closed captioning for 20 hours of its programming day.
Weather Channel, based in Atlanta, is the nation's preeminent source of
weather information. The only national 24-hour weather network, The
Weather Channel is seen in more than 74 million U.S. homes with another
4.5 million households subscribed in Latin America. The Weather Channel
Web site, weather.com, is the leading online weather provider, averaging
over 130 million page views per month. The funding for closed captioning
is made possible in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of
Release by The Weather Channel, Thanks to Rob DeBeck)