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Internet television programming (Yahoo, Google, AOL)

Internet television programming (Yahoo, Google, AOL)

Editor: You may know Jamie Berke, who is the editor of About:Deafness/HOH at http://deafness.about.com/. She is also very active in the captioning world, owning the www.captions.org website. She has long been warning people about the dangers of ignoring the issue of captioning on the web. Here’s her recent post to the Captioning email list on Yahoo. Jamie has identified a really important issue, and we need to take action. As we’ve learned time and time again, it’s far easier to get accommodations built into a system at the beginning, than to get them added on later. Thanks to Jamie for permission to share her post in HOH-LD-News.


I hate to say “I told you so,” but not too long ago I warned that in the next few years we would see television moving to the internet and that if we didn’t proactively demand captions now, the next generation of deaf and hard of hearing would be left out of all the new online video content. It is happening faster than I expected!

Yahoo, Google, and AOL are all getting involved in the online video marketplace.

* AOL – I just checked out a Simpsons clip at http://www.aol.com/video/ and no captions. Checked the help feature, nothing on captions. On 11/14/05 I had posted to this list about AOL offering free television clips. They are moving ahead with their plans, as can bee seen in this January 5, 2006 press release from AOL’s corporate site:http://media.timewarner.com/media/newmedia/cb_press_view.cfm
?release_num=55254501. Note at the bottom of the press release there are names and phone numbers to contact. Earlier in November 2005 I had talked to Ruth Sarfaty, an AOL vice president (her contact information is on this page: http://corp.aol.com/press/mediacontacts.shtml) but she never got back to me regarding the need for captions..

* Yahoo – Yahoo is already offering free downloads of CBS programming at http://tv.yahoo.com. I checked it out – no captions. I poked all over the Yahoo website until I finally found a page with contacts. Use this page: http://yhoo.client.shareholder.com/press/contact.cfm I don’t know which person on this list would be the best person to contact regarding closed captioning on Yahoo television. Anyone have any suggestions? I haven’t e-mailed any of them yet.

* Google – See this press release from Google that has even more details than what has been in the news recently: http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/pressrel/video_marketplace.html At the bottom of the press release is a contact name and e-mail address. Again, I found a page of contacts: http://www.google.com/press/mediacontacts.html

It is clear to me that there is no consideration being given to accessibility in the planning of these online video services! The internet broadcasters are rushing into the market because it is a growth field, a potential moneymaker for them, and accessibility be damned.

If we wait for legislation (Congress) and the FCC (regulations), because of the speed at which things are moving, by the time we get legislation and regulations, the internet video marketplace will be well-developed and there will be a huge amount of online video content that deaf and hard of hearing people will miss out on unless we act now to demand captions.

Are we ready to launch the Internet Television Captioning War of 2006?

PS To put things into perspective regarding my alarm over the lack of captions on the internet, I would like to share my memory of what happened in 1977. That was the year that the now-classic Roots miniseries was on television. My social studies teacher told my class that our homework assignment was to watch Roots. I tried to watch it but of course did not understand while my classmates were able to. I didn’t get to see Roots with captions until the ’80s and the college years.

Now imagine this scenario for the future – a teacher with a deaf or hard of hearing student in the classroom tells the class that their homework assignment is to go on the web and download and watch a video program. If the video program does not have captions, it will be 1977 all over again.