SSW Blog

Drawbacks of Closed Captioning

Posted on | March 25, 2009 | No Comments

Digital TV Transition is drawing near June 12, 2009. All TV stations across the USA will completely switch to digital signal. Goodbye, Old Good Analog TV. Americans had enjoyed watching analog TV since first public TV in 1939 and even did not pay or subscribe to any TV service by using a simple old fashioned antenna at every house. Until we wanted more than local channels or we were not pleased with inadequate and weak TV reception we had subscribed to either cable or satellite provider.

In late 1970s, we were thrilled to purchase first CC decoder at SEARS.  Believe it or not, in the beginning of CC, the quality of CC was excellent and in very good standards, thanks to National Captioning Institute (NCI). NCI had monitored and oversaw the CC throughout the TV stations. I am not sure how NCI had done in the past but presumably NCI acts lesser role today. Interesting, I had recently learned about an inventor of CC decoder. ( See an article below). We were satisfied with old good CC decoder for more than a decade, in spite of other CC equipments like smaller CC decoder built in VCR recorder and TV. The old CC decoder began to fall apart until SEARS announced no more parts for further replacement.

What about digital closed captioning (CEA-708)? Most televisions with above 13 inches or more are built in with closed captioning (CC) chip. Most televisions work fine with CEA-608 which it calls Analog Closed Captioning (CC). Will CEA-708 be fully developed as well as capable?  I had not seen any article about whether C708 is ready for release but I had read some articles that Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) had mentioned sometimes about “enhanced C608” for use of digital TV in place of C708.

What about cable or satellite providers? Those providers tend to provide the receiver boxes including DVR or HDVR boxes to subscribers but some boxes may not be compatible with closed captioning chip. Therefore some subscribers have to purchase set top box for one major reason to enable closed captioning through the receiver boxes.

Some TV manufacturers, cable or satellite providers, video programming stations and TV stations are intentionally unaware about closed captioning including both analog and digital captioning but good enough, they don’t realize that they neglect an important piece of the FCC regulations that require closed captioning.

What about DVD or Blu-Ray players? What about HDMI or component cables? Unfortunately both DVD or Blu-Ray players do not enable any such closed captioning chip? I will explain about this DVD or Blu-Ray players later in next article.

There are confusion about how to enable closed captioning through HDMI or component cables but sometimes those cables won’t work successfully. I had tried one component cable as being advised by salesman when purchasing LCD 42 inch Zenith TV and however, it could not enable closed captioning through TV. I had replaced it with standard S-video cable and then closed captioning had appeared on the TV screen.

We are seriously concerned about On-Demand service by cable or satellite TV providers because this particular service is not covered under the rules by FCC to enforce closed captioning in the Internet.

Being dismayed at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2004, we could not believe the federal government for its weak decision to revise the captioning rule to require 100% of programming TV being captioned effective January 1, 2006. The FCC added “new rule” to allow new programming channel including digital programming to mandate captioning with some exceptions on or after July 2002. Revising the old rules to “pre-rule” by the FCC effective July 2008 it requires 75% of programming per channel per quarter, rather than 100% of programming on all channels. When will it be 100% of programming with CC on all channels?

There are ongoing problems in reference to CC about quality, poor placement, wrong type of analog vs. digital overlapping, methods of scrolling, crawler or popup, stinky English including bad grammar, unclear and baby words, lagging time, and so forth. Worst, more TV channels like CNN, FOX, or ESPN have added the screen with the crawler, inset boxes, scores, stocks, weather, and split screen. Those features would mess up CC and make not enough space on the screen for CC.

DTV deadline is nearing, as we are struggling with the FCC, TV stations and TV service providers over a major issue of CC.  There are some drawbacks that we have to take voluntarily motivation and patience to work together and hopefully make any better compromise for CC.

My recommendations for further reading and joining the forums about CC: