Archived Story

Closed captioned for the hearing impaired

Published 9:14am Friday, October 14, 2011

Column: Between the Corn Rows

Not long ago I decided to see just how many of the local cable television channels used the oft-overlooked asset of closed captioning. This is an added potion for people who are hearing challenged, the deaf or hard of hearing, to somewhat enjoy the viewing of television programs.

During one quick check on the TV set, I found that closed captioning was being shown on 37 channels. This included the Univision channel with the captioning obviously being shown in Spanish. Another channel was showing a television program or movie in black and white from the olden days. It also had closed captioning. And what really surprised me was the white on black wording being shown on the screen during a color cartoon.

At this point there’s an obvious discrepancy. Anyone with cable or satellite television knows there are more than 37 channels available for viewing. The difference is based on the other channels telecasting commercial messages. Most of those sponsors clearly don’t want any distractions for their commercials. As a result, closed captioning isn’t used for most commercials and the hearing challenged are being sadly overlooked.

Another detail I noticed as I surfed the channels is a goofy gimmick I like to call the “creepy crawler.” This feature is a type of captioning at the bottom of the screen on six or seven of the news type telecasts. Thus, the viewers have the option of multitasking.

Here’s an example of what I mean by multitasking, plus intentional confusion. The main part of the newscast or commentary with sound or closed captioning might be based on current events in Iraq or Iran. Yet, on the lower portion of the screen is the silent and continuous creepy crawler with news or information based on an entirely different topic. An example would be the latest marriage or alleged DWI by one of those Hollywood publicity seekers.

What tells me these creepy crawlers don’t really mean much is what happens when a series of commercials come onto the screen. By the way, commercials on television are like the famous slogan once used for a brand of potato chips; you can’t have just one.

Anyway, the creepy crawler on the lower part of the screen will be abruptly cut off right in the middle of a sentence when the first of several commercials come onto the screen. This isn’t good grammar or anything else.

A good synonym for closed captioning is translation. Instead of using English for the Spanish, German or whatever language is being spoken, the words are converted into printed words on the screen. And at this point I’m going to reveal a secret about most of the closed captioning on television today.

The spoken words and the printed words aren’t in unison at all. There’s usually a lag between the two. The spoken word may come up in the printed form about 10 to 20 seconds later. Also, there my be some abbreviations of what’s said to what’s actually printed for the closed captions.

One quirk of television I’m trying to see with closed captioning comes when two people are trying to talk at the same time. For some odd reason, a few of the talk show hosts seems to lose control and two guests (a liberal and a conservative) are both talking or shouting at the same time. Frankly, I think some of these vocal events are scripted or arranged prior to the telecast.

We’ll have more about the closed captioning topic in the next column.

Cornstalk comment

The names of the months of the year can also be used for first and last names of people. For example, there’s January Jones, a TV star who grew up near Sioux Falls, S.D. Also worth considering is Academy Award winner and film star Fredric March (1897-1975). Just by coincidence, I went to school with a young lady with the last name of May out in east Oregon, plus working at the Tribune where there was once an editor named Burt May. The editor of this paper tells me there is a woman disc golfer in town named December Moore.

April, May and June serve as the first names for some fine folks of the feminine gender. While they are the most common months that are names, apparently they aren’t the only ones.

To close off, here’s another of the puzzle deals. The abbreviation for January is Jan. By using just the first letters of three other months, this abbreviation can be duplicated with the names of three other months. And those months are July, August and November.

With just three exceptions, Ed Shannon’s columns have been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.