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TV captioning for people with hearing loss

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 captioning.

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!


December 1999 – Another piece of great news is the recent announcement that The Weather Channel is starting to caption their programming.


January 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.


July 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.


December 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.


January 2001 – The Weather Channel Announces full time 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.

June 2001 – More Closed Captioners Needed

May 2001 – The National Association of the Deaf recently released theirStatement on Captioning.

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.

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.

October 2002 – In an effort to improve the quality of television captioning, captioning providers are planning to organize a trade association.

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.

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.

May 2003 – Here’s a great summary of television captioning information and requirements from the FCC.

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 complain.

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!

January 2004 – Television captioning requirements increased on January 1. Here’s the details!

February 2004 – Ever heard of enCaption? It’s a new automated captioning technology for television news broadcasts.

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 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?Here are Cheryl Heppner’s thoughts on the dismal state of captioning for the 2005 Super Bowl.

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

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

January 2006 – Here’s a GREAT history of the first 25 years of television captioning from the 2005 TDI convention.

February 2006 – Where those TV captions come from

March 2006 – Closed-captioners get the message across

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 years!

November 2006 – Deaf And Hard Of Hearing Seek Captions On Ads

June 2007 – TV Captioning Problems: Where’s the Action?

September 2007 – TDI Conference Workshop – TV Captioning Issues

October 2007 – Timeline of closed-captioning milestones

October 2007 – Behind the Scenes with Television Captioning

February 2008 – NVRC’S 2008 Super Bowl Captioned Ad Results

February 2008 – Filing a Television Closed Captioning Complaint

February 2008 – History of Captioned Super Bowl Ads

February 2008 – Captions and Subtitles – Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

February 2008 – If She Couldn’t Have Captions, No One Would Have TV

February 2008 – The UK Model for Handling Captioning Problems

May 2008 – SF to Require Public TVs to Display Captions?

May 2008 – TV Station for Senior Community Refuses to Caption

May 2008 – Australian Television Captioning Agreement Expires

May 2008 – New Software for Locating Recorded TV Scenes by Captions

August 2008 – Some Minnesota Political Ads MUST Be Captioned!

February 2009 – Super Bowl Advertisement Captioning Report

February 2009 – TV needs to work on captioning for the deaf

March 2009 – Captioning Key from DCMP Models Captioning Best Practices

April 2009 – So far, SNY closed to captioning

July 2009 – Canada Requires Phones and TV to Be More Accessible to People with Hearing Loss

August 2009 – Captioning Time Line Highlights

September 2009 – A Brief History of Closed Captioning

November 2009 – Working to Address Captioning Issues

December 2009 – ESPN Writer Comments on TV Closed Captioning

January 2010 – Bill would require closed captioning in bars, restaurants

February 2010 – Maryland Public Captioning Bill Stalls

February 2010 – More Super Bowl Ads Captioned!

February 2010 – FLO TV Can’t Commit to Providing Captioning

February 2010 – The FCC Wants Your Captioning Complaints – And They’ve Made it Easier for you to Provide Them!

April 2010 – Television Captioning Rules Explained to Video Programming Distributors

May 2010 – Maryland Bill requires closed captioning on public televisions

May 2010 – Hot News on Televised Early-release Movies

May 2010 – Contact Information for TV Captioning Problems

September 2010 – Confessions of a Television Captioner

October 2010 – FCC Seeks Comments on TV Captioning

November 2010 – WGBH Works with Nuance Communications, Inc. on Effort to Improve the Quality of Live News Captioning

December 2010 – Lack of 3D captioning standard stymies development

December 2010 – Results of WGBH National Captioning Survey

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!

April 2011 – Hamilton CapTel is Captioning Sponsor of “The Balancing Act”

September 2011 – So THAT’S What It’s Like to do Television Captioning!

October 2011 – FCC Reverses Anglers Order of 2006!

November 2011 – FCC Requires Religious Broadcasters to Carry Closed Captioning


Captioning on the Weather Channel

The 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.


Starting 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.


The 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 Education.


(Press Release by The Weather Channel, Thanks to Rob DeBeck)



More Closed Captioners Needed

June 2001

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)

TV Captioning Increase Required Jan 1

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 institutions
– programs shown on new networks for the first 4 years of their operations
– 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.


Where those TV captions come from


February 2006


Ever wonder where the captioning on your TV’s mute setting comes from? Doesn’t it seem remarkable that live news and sports events can be captioned even as the action happens? Well, even if you’ve never thought about it, we have. And we found out the information for you. According to Time Warner Cable’s Government Relations and Public Affairs Vice President Peter Taubkin, all closed-captioning comes directly from the networks themselves. “Closed-captioning is hidden within the signal we get from the programmers. It is embedded in something called the line 21 vertical blanking interval, and basically it comes through on the signal sent from the network or program. It is not something the cable operator originates,” Taubkin said.  Full Story




Closed-captioners get the message across


March 2006


Smartly-dressed Court TV anchors hosted live coverage of a Vermont murder trial last week. For viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, however, the real star of the national cable television show was Karla Ray. She wore jeans and didn’t leave her Des Moines home. Ray, 31, never appeared on screen. She was working in a home office in her basement, typing the closed-captioning for the live program. She translated the anchors’ commentary and the testimony. The words crawl across the screen for the hearing impaired and viewers who are helped by seeing spoken words in print.  Full Story


Deaf And Hard Of Hearing Seek Captions On Ads

November 2006

This time of year it’s hard to flip on the TV without getting bombarded by political ads. At the rate some of these ads are blazing up the airwaves, it can be a downright scary time when it comes to sorting it all out. This is especially true for voters who are deaf or hard of hearing — when ads don’t include closed captioning. “I don’t understand why they don’t include closed captioning on it, ” said Ron, a deaf voter who plans to vote. “Perry as Governor knows the re’s a large deaf contingent here in Austin and his ads should be closed captioned, and he knows that.” But ‘knows that’ and ‘does that’ — as CBS 42’s Leslie Coons found out — are 2 very different things. Full Story



TV Captioning Problems: Where’s the Action?

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 FCC:

– 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 their complaints.

– Create a captioning complaint form.

– 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 immediately.

– 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.


Behind the Scenes with Television Captioning

October 2007

VITAC, which provides captions for the Discovery Networks, some NFL games and Headline News, employs about 100 captioners, including Laura Low of Niles. Low, who worked as a court stenographer for 20 years, has been a real-time captioner since 2002. Real-time captioners use a computerized system based on stenographic shorthand. Words are formed by depressing a certain combination of the steno machine’s 22 keys through a computer program and a phone line to provide information for the millions of viewers who may be watching. . . .  Low receives a direct audio feed that gives her a four-second jump to turn dialogue into written words. Like most real-time captioners, she is required to have a 98 percent accuracy rate at a remarkable speed of 240 words a minute.”People don’t understand there are people in the background typing in these captions,” says Jay Feinberg of the National Captioning Institute. “Most people feel it’s something their television does.” There are an estimated 400 captioners nationwide, but Feinberg says that’s not enough to meet the growing demand.   Full Story


History of Captioned Super Bowl Ads

February 2008

Super Bowl commercials seem to receive more hype than the game. The commercials spots for Super Bowl XLII sold out in record time as advertisers vie for the highly sought-after opportunity to connect with the 97.5 million viewers who tune-in to watch the game and, perhaps with just as much draw, the Super Bowl Ads. Marketing companies continually attempt to meet rising viewer expectations when producing their spots. Millions of dollars are spent by companies promoting their products. This year’s advertisers paid an average of 2.7 million dollars (and as much as 3 million dollars) to secure a 30-second commercial during the game. The exposure they receive, and the money they make, is tremendous.Each year Captions.Com monitors the commercials during the game to see which are captioned for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. We then display those who captioned and those who did not. Full Story


If She Couldn’t Have Captions, No One Would Have TV

February 2008

The gym I work out at has five television sets in the cardio room. I noticed that when I went to work out, sometimes the closed captions would be displayed on one set, but not all five sets. And sometimes the closed captions wouldn’t be turned on at all. For the past few weeks, the captions have been completely off. When I went to talk to the employees about this, they all claimed they couldn’t do anything to the TV’s because only a manager has the remote and the managers are never there when I am (I go around 6 PM) so I couldn’t ask them directly.  The employees kept claiming that they had left notes for the managers, but the captions still did not come on. Since I can’t listen to music, I was getting pretty bored while I worked out on the elliptical trainer.  Full Story


TV Station for Senior Community Refuses to Caption

May 2008

Louis Schwarz, who lives part time in The Villages, would really love to get the scoop from the developer’s television station about all the fun stuff going on in the massive retirement community of nearly 70,000 people.  The station claims in advertisements to supply 100 percent of all the local news, weather, sports, club listings, lifestyle stories, weather radar, consumer alerts, medical news, government information and storm coverage that Villages residents need.  But Schwarz can’t get any of it. He’s deaf, and the station doesn’t offer closed captioning, though it is required by federal regulations to do so.  Schwarz, who has a financial-management firm based in suburban Washington, D.C., asked station management why VNN lacked captioning and was told the station didn’t fall under rules requiring it.  Schwarz fired back this reply: Prove it. About three weeks later, VNN filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission asking for an exemption.  Full Story


Australian Television Captioning Agreement Expires

May 2008

Commercial television networks face the possibility of potentially embarrassing discrimination lawsuits by the deaf after failing to renew an agreement that covers the captioning of programs. Under a five-year deal signed with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 2003, the networks committed to increase the captioning of their content to 70per cent in exchange for an exemption from claims of discrimination. The agreement, which runs out on Wednesday, included a promise to begin negotiations for a new exemption beyond 2008, which did not occur. The networks have lodged a request for an interim six-month exemption to allow time for a federal government review of captioning to finish. Until that application is ruled on, an opportunity exists for deaf people to complain under the Disability Discrimination Act about any program not being captioned. That could ultimately lead to a Federal Court order for the station to caption the program, and for damages, as well as adverse publicity.  Full Story


TV needs to work on captioning for the deaf

February 2009

William Brook is watching the noon news, and he’s not happy.  It’s not because the usual spate of bad news is coming from the tube. It’s because he’s deaf, and the closed captioning system used by Channel 8 is lame.  I watched TV with the 84-year-old former Navy test pilot last week. The sound was off, the closed captioning was on, and we were both frustrated.  One of the first reports was the one-day deal by Denny’s restaurants to give out free meals. But whatever the reporter was saying wasn’t showing up on the screen because she was live in the field.  Only text that’s pre-scripted for the broadcast is closed captioned, the service that rolls text across the screen for anyone unable to hear what’s being said. If the anchors ad-lib, you don’t see their words. If a studio guest is on, same problem.  I bet at least half of Channel 8’s hourlong newscast didn’t have closed captioning.   Full Story


Captioning Key from DCMP Models Captioning Best Practices

March 2009

Is it just me, or is television captioning actually getting worse? I remember thinking a couple of years ago that the quality of television captioning was improving, but it sure seems to have taken a turn for the worse since then. So what is good captioning? Suppose you’re able to get someone interested in providing good captioning – beyond the obvious requirement that the captioning should reflect what was said, what additional goals should be pursued? I don’t have a ready list to offer, but the folks at the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) do. Actually it’s way  better than just a list, with examples, videos, and more. Please do point your browser to:www.dcmp.org/captioningkey


So far, SNY closed to captioning

April 2009

Carl DeStefanis is deaf, and thus doesn’t bother with TV shows that do not offer closed captions. One exception: Mets games on SNY, which he called “a continuous reminder of my disability.” I can’t help but try to watch the Mets,” DeStefanis, 24, wrote in an e-mail, “but every time I do, I find myself wishing people weren’t so shortsighted with supplying this much-needed service.” For a network praised for its Mets announcers and extras such as in-game interviews, and that is about to unveil new technical gizmos and add more postgame coverage, it is a glaring, hard-to-figure omission: SNY does not provide captioning for the hard of hearing.  Full Story


Canada Requires Phones and TV to Be More Accessible to People with Hearing Loss

July 2009

Cellphones and text messaging must be more accessible to Canadians with disabilities within the next year under new rules released by Canada’s telecommunications regulator Tuesday. The rules also require broadcasters to make more TV programs accessible to the blind and improve the quality for closed captions for deaf Canadians, said a release from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. There are more than four million Canadians with disabilities, the commission noted.  Full Story


Captioning Time Line Highlights

August 2009

Here’s a great blow-by-blow history of the progress we’ve made in television captioning, from the first effort to insert the caption data between video frames in 1947 to the significant captioning developments of recent years.  Full Story


A Brief History of Closed Captioning

September 2009

The nation’s first captioning agency, the Caption Center, was founded in 1972 at the Boston public television station WGBH. The station introduced open television captioning to rebroadcasts of The French Chef with Julia Child and began captioning rebroadcasts of ABC News programs as well, in an effort to make television more accessible to the millions of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing. Captions on The French Chef were viewable to everyone who watched, which was great for members of the deaf and hard of hearing community, but somewhat distracting for other viewers. So the Caption Center and its partners began developing technology that would display captions only for viewers with a certain device. “The system, called ‘closed captioning,’ uses a decoder that enables viewers to see the written dialogue or narration at the bottom of the screens,” reported the New York Times in 1974. “On sets without the decoder, the written matter is invisible.”   Full Story


ESPN Writer Comments on TV Closed Captioning

December 2009

I like bars. I like sports. I like watching sports in bars. This is a topic my wife could discuss with you at length. But I couldn’t fully enjoy this hobby if it weren’t for an invention more miraculous than even boneless teriyaki chicken wings: closed captioning. Closed captioning, or, as many closed captioners spell it, CLOTHES CAP SHUNNING, is what stenographers type onto the bottom of your screen, moving faster than a double-parked meth freak, when you press “CC” on your remote. These people are generally very good at their jobs, but sports announcers spew between 150 and 200 words per minute, and most stenographers were French majors at Swarthmore, so mistakes are made. I’ve seen HALL OF FAME LINEBACKER DICK BUTT KISS, and Atlanta Brave Chipper Jones come up to BAT RYE HANDED. (I wonder if Babe Ruth ever did that?) I’ve watched MIKE PIZZA and MIKE PIZZERIA. I’ve seen a thousand FIELD GOLDS and a few hundred torn INTERIOR CRUCIAL LIGAMENTS, some belonging to members of the Alabama RIMS AND TIDE.  Full Story


Bill would require closed captioning in bars, restaurants

January 2010

All bars and restaurants with TVs would be required to show closed captioning under legislation quickly working its way through a Senate committee. But the measure hit a snag Thursday on its way out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The bill is aimed at making it easier for deaf people to watch programs in bars and restaurants. Though committee members all said they liked the bill in principle, some thought it might be overkill to subject every patron to the text running across the bottom of each screen. Sen. Brian Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, thought it would be better to only have closed captioning on at least one television. And Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Baltimore County, predicted discontent among patrons of sports bars with many screens, where people might get angry about missing some of the action because part of the screen would be covered by text.  Full Story


More Super Bowl Ads Captioned!

February 2010

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the National Football League (NFL) along with CBS Corporation, the network airing Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010, have collaborated to make advertisers who purchase Super Bowl commercials aware of the importance of captioning their content. As a result of these efforts, viewers should notice an increased number of captioned commercials compared to previous Super Bowls. The NAD thanks the NFL and CBS Corporation for their efforts to promote closed captioning of the television commercials. Working alongside with the NAD and the NFL, CBS encouraged all of their Super Bowl advertisers to close caption their commercials. The NAD appreciates the efforts of the NFL and CBS on this important issue for the deaf and hard of hearing community. The NAD will monitor the results as we pursue a fully captioned experience from start to finish for all future Super Bowls.   Full Story


FLO TV Can’t Commit to Providing Captioning

February 2010

You may not be familiar with a new technology that provides television service to your mobile device (like an iPhone), to a device that can be installed in your vehicle or to a personal FLO TV device. It broadcasts over the wireless networks, so can receive programming where cell phones have a signal. Sadly, they do not currently provide captioning and apparently do not intend to do so in the near future. You can learn more about FLO TV at http://www.flotv.com/ .

For more information on the captioning issue, point your browser tohttp://captionaction2.blogspot.com/2010/02/flo-tv-cant-commit-to-captioning.html


Maryland Bill requires closed captioning on public televisions

May 2010

Senate Bill 68, as amended, became law yesterday, May 4, when approved by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. In the final version, TV closed captions must be activated, upon request, in public areas of places of public accommodation. Thanks to bhNEWS (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bhNEWS) for the lead on this story.  Full story


Lack of 3D captioning standard stymies development

by Michael Grotticelli

December 2010

As more content is being produced in 3-D, the need for captioning, now mandated by the U.S. government, has been brought to the forefront. While all of the vendors in this category are aware of the need to do it, very few customers have asked for it, which holds back development. “We certainly have the capability to produce captions in 3-D space, but we’re not investing a lot in R&D until there is customer demand and a standard specification for how to do it,” said José M. Salgado, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based SoftNI, a veteran captioning and subtitling software provider. To be clear, the issue has to do with closed-captioning, not necessarily “subtitling.” 3-D subtitling is typically predetermined by the content producer and is inserted into a plane (below, on the side or on top of the screen) that’s most aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Because subtitles are simply a part of the picture, there is no need for new technology to transmit or display them.  Full Story


Results of WGBH National Captioning Survey

December 2010

Disability organizations and individuals with disabilities have filed complaints and a formal petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which reflects frustration with chronic problems related to live captioning quality, transmission errors, and lack of industry response to their concerns. However, without a common means of measuring accuracy and quality, the FCC, consumers and broadcasters have no efficient method of tracking and improving stenocaption accuracy performance.

In spring 2010, WGBH’s National Center for Accessible Media conducted a national Web survey to query television news caption viewers about the types of caption errors that impact their ability to understand a live television news program. Survey results are contributing to definition of error types and criteria for weighting and ranking error types within a prototype automated caption accuracy assessment system we are developing.

The majority of respondents self-identified as deaf or late-deafened; less than a third indicated they were hard-of-hearing. The survey presented 41 examples drawn from a wide range of major national broadcast and cable television live news programs. These 41 examples represented 17 sub-categories of common caption error types identified by the project team and advisors.

The Caption Accuracy Metrics Survey Final Report has just been published on the project website


Not all Super Bowl Ads Were Captioned!

February 2010

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 http://www.captions.com


So THAT’S What It’s Like to do Television Captioning!

September 2011

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 Story


FCC Reverses Anglers Order of 2006!

October 2011

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 programs.   Full Story


FCC Requires Religious Broadcasters to Carry Closed Captioning

November 2011

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 religious broadcasters. Full Story

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