The Fight to Bring Live Television to Deaf Audiences

For most of the 20th century, movies and TV were completely useless for deaf people. We take captioned entertainment on TV, streaming services, and video sites for granted these days- not only can you read what’s being said, you can select a different language. It wasn’t always so. You might be surprised to learn that television didn’t use captions at all until 1980! And even then, the rollout was quite bumpy.

The scheme that the networks ABC, NBC, and PBS agreed to was for television caption decoders to be sold by Sears, with royalties going to the National Captioning Institute to be used to pay for adding closed captions to shows. It was an expensive proposition, as captioners had to be hired and trained, and it took 24 hours or more to caption a one-hour program. The devices were expensive, too. This created a Catch-22 situation. Deaf people didn’t want to invest in the decoders for just a few hours of captioned TV, which might not even be something they wanted to watch. But captioning more hours was impossible without funds from device sales. What’s more, CBS wouldn’t get on board with the plan because they had already contracted to use an alternate system.

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The ultimate goal was to not only caption all TV shows, but live events, too. The first captioned news broadcast didn’t happen until 1984, and the first captioned Super Bowl was in 1985. Read how that happened in a condensed history of closed captioning at Engadget.  -via Digg

Source: neatorama

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