Big Four nets get closed captioning break


The Big Four networks and affiliates in Top 25 markets have won some relief from rules requiring closed captioning of live dialogue.

The FCC said that real-time services is necessary only to meet minimum captioning benchmarks through 2006, when stations must caption all live dialogue. Other techniques, such as captioning of pre-prepared news scripts can be used to fulfill the "no backsliding" provision, which requires broadcasters maintain the level of captioning they offered in 1997 even if that amount exceeds minimum requirements.

CBS argued that making big TV groups offer live captioning of news programs would punish broadcasters that provided captioning services ahead of the Jan. 1, 2000 kick-in date of minimum requirements. The National Association of the Deaf, on the other hand, said hearing-impaired viewers would lose full enjoyment of TV without access to live news updates and banter between anchors. "In a nutshell, all that you hear, we wish to see in the form of captions, without gaps," said Nancy Bloch, executive director, National Association of the Deaf.
- Bill McConnell