Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Join Marlee Matlin in demanding captioning of online video content

By BA Haller
© Media dis&dat

Academy-Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin has been using her Twitter account to actively lobby for captioning of all the digital video content that is flooding onto the Web. The issue has rightfully hit a boiling point for the deaf community because Netflix and other services are now streaming video online without captions.

The National Association of the Deaf sent a letter to Netflix Oct. 5 complaining about the lack of captioning for "The Wizard of Oz," which was available for download free at the Netflix Web site as a promotion.

Matlin points out the irony of a recent video about the Helen Keller statue unveiling at the U.S. Capitol on the CNN Web site that has no captions!

Back in June 2007, TelevisionWeek wrote an excellent article about how the digital revolution has meant less accessible content for people who need captioning because the mandates that require captioning for broadcast aren't applied to the Internet. "The major broadcast networks have launched state-of-the-art online video players -- that do not include captions," the article said. "Apple has revolutionized TV viewing by making shows available for download on iTunes -- without captions. The television industry is spending billions to deliver spectacular high-definition signals -- but viewing captions on HD programming is a Byzantine process that has frustrated many viewers."

TelevisionWeek even followed up this important story with an editorial explaining, "more than 23 million viewers in the U.S. are being excluded from the future of television in which viewers can watch whatever they want, wherever and whenever they want. We urge the industry to do what's right and devote whatever resources are necessary to provide closed captioning for all the material they are distributing over developing digital media."

But things seem to have gotten worse on the captioning front since this article was written. We all need to be lobbying the media companies and politicians to make sure all media are accessible to everyone.

Here are Marlee Matlin's Oct. 21 tweets on the subject:

    • @hulu has captioned more TV shows/movies than anyone else. Kudos for staying on top of it.

    • @andersoncooper just an FYI. CNN on Demand covers the Helen Keller statue unveiling LIVE and it's not accessible because no closed captions.

    • The point is that EVERYTHING is moving to Internet & all technology is in place to get it. But access for EVERYONE goes out the window. Why?

    • 20 years ago I fought the fight for captions. And the law was passed 17 yrs ago. Now Im forced to begin again. I'm screaming NOW not later.

    • More offenders for lack of captions..TIVO on demand. I love TIVO but if I cant watch a movie that EVERYONE else can whats the point?!

    • They have technology for HD, surround sound, movies on demand..and little words that give equal access is beyond them? What the Bleep!?

    • And Blockbuster on Demand, @Netflix. say "We don't have the technology yet" Or is it "We don't have the commitment to equal access"?

    • And CNN on Demand. A story about unveiling of the Helen Keller statue in Wash DC. Wanna guess? NOT captioned. And it's about Helen Keller!!

    • Breaking it down. iTunes. Says they offer captions. But hardly a movie or TV show that's been captioned on TV is captioned on iTunes. Why?

    • So I just got an eyeful of info. So here's my question. iTunes, Netflix, Blockbuster, CNN on Demand, Hulu. Where are your closed captions?