Closed Captioning: Keeping the Pace

By Kathi Mestayer

“You’ve done your best,” I heard the character on a “Law & Order” rerun say. A few seconds later, the closed captioning read, “You’re under arrest.” The delay was only a few seconds, but it was enough so that I couldn’t listen, read lips, and read the captions at the same time.

When the caption timing is better (which is most of the time), reading, hearing, and lipreading are seamless. But those few seconds’ delay made it impossible, amounting to captioning that was of little value.

I visited the website for the Federal Communications Commission, and entered the information about the show, channel, time, date, and the problem with the captions. Here’s the link. (Scroll down to “Closed Captioning” and then complete the online form.)

About two weeks later, I received a (paper) letter from the FCC to the effect that the report had been received and forwarded to my cable provider, Cox. Within a few days, I got a phone call from a representative from my cable provider, who was concerned about the captioning problem. (She has a hearing loss herself.) She said she would check into it and asked me to let her know if I noticed the captioning was delayed again, and to please note the time, date, and channel, so she could track it down. 

A couple of days later, she called to say it was fixed!  

This was to me astoundingly quick customer service, thanks to the FCC. If you notice a significant delay (or other problem) in closed captioning, report it to the FCC. It can be fixed—but only if someone notices and lets them know.

Hearing Health magazine staff writer Kathi Mestayer serves on advisory boards for the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Greater Richmond, Va., chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America.

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