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E-Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing People.

Captions in Television, Film and Video

For persons with hearing loss, one of life’s frustrations is seeing television, film or videotapes without knowing what is said. That’s where captioning comes in. Captions provide a text version of the audio in a line of running text on the face of the broadcast, film or videotape. In television, the captions cover part of the picture. In some non–broadcast situations, captions can be added in such a way as not to block the picture.

Types of Captions

There are two types of captions.

Closed Captions — These are text blocks hidden in the video signal, invisible without a special decoder. Decoder chips are installed in all television sets produced since 1990.

Open Captions — These are captions visible all the time that are added in such a way as to be an integral part of the television picture, like subtitles in a movie. They cannot be turned off.

How Do I Get Captions on My Television

There are two ways; one is to buy or lease an external decoder that decodes caption signals, and the other is to buy a television with a built–in decoder. The Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 mandates that all televisions with a picture tube greater than 13 inches manufactured in the United States since 1993 must include such a decoder.

Captions on Cable Television

Captions should be available on cable television in the same manner as they are on over–the–air television broadcasts. There are problems from time to time related to a cable company’s use of equipment that “cleans up” or compresses television signals, an action that sometimes eliminates the portion of the signal where the captions are carried. Contact the cable company if you notice a program that should be captioned but is not. Federal regulators require the cable company to maintain caption information.

For more information on captioning:

AGBELL Deaf and Hard of Hearing Section on Captioning.

Captioned Media Program (CMP).

Media Access Group.

National Captioning Institute Help Desk.

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