Captioning and Advocacy: Thoughts on Legal Issues

old fashioned balance deviceCaptioning and Advocacy: Thoughts on Legal Issues — Jim O’Donnell

Captioning is an advocacy issue for our chapter and for the national organization. You can see it as one of the Advocacy issues on this website. There are many different levels of captioning requirements but let’s look at television programs, recorded and live. Have you seen stations that don’t have captions on their programs? I have observed that NECN often does not consistently caption their programs. Perhaps it relies on an exemption for news stations that run the news script at the bottom of the screen. However, some stations, like COZI, which shows reruns of old series like Magnum PI and Bewitched, have no script running and no captions. Some of the series are captioned, some are not; the rule is that all should be captioned. Another is Spike station, which runs some series and movies, and, generally, there are no captions at all or they are totally illegible.

So what’s to be done? The FCC monitors and enforces rules on captioning and they have a process for dealing with such complaints. The first step is to send a letter of complaint to the video provider with a copy to the FCC; in my case, it’s Comcast. There is a specific address on the bill for complaints. The subsequent level is to the FCC if there are no results. 

Through broad advocacy, we can protect and expand our rights. Expanding the reach of captioning in all forms of media is the goal of our advocacy. Laws have been passed and agreements with providers established, increasing captioning requirements. (Note the addition of captioning in digital movies at local theaters. Now I can see any first run movie at Regal and AMC Cinemas.) But we all know there are gaps, and the way to enforce the law is through our filing complaints.