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HDTV Closes the Captions

Most high-def programming is not available with closed-captions for the hearing-impaired.
By Phillip Swann
Washington, D.C. (May 16, 2007) — High-Definition TV may look good, but for the hearing-impaired, there’s something missing.

The Sacramento Bee reports that many high-def programs are not available with closed-captions, a vital source of data for the hearing-impaired. With 31 million hearing-impaired Americans, the problem is both serious and widespread.

Janel Edmiston, a hearing-impaired viewer in California, tells the Bee that her recent purchase of a high-def set has almost ruined her nightly pastime.
“It’s not that I’m addicted to TV, but I was missing out on time with my family in the evenings,” Edmiston said. “Without captions, it’s like they are speaking Russian.”

The Bee reports that it’s more difficult to include closed-captioning with high-def programming because the digital signal is processed via the set-top and must be matched up with the picture. However, the newspaper reports that some networks also appear uninterested in providing closed-captioning data.

Larry Goldberg, director of media access at WGBH, a Boston PBS station, says he often gets complaints about the lack of closed-captioning for high-def programs.

“If there was one organization we could blame, it would make it a lot easier. But there are at least a few different causes. For instance, not all broadcasters properly encode their closed-caption data, even though there’s a standard mandated by the FCC,” Goldberg told the Bee. … Continued


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