surveillance-video_2267_1246014181    Closed Captioning. Most people have heard of it or used it, but few know how it really works, where it comes from, who pays for it, or the federal guidelines that regulate it. To most, it just pops up on the screen after clicking the CC button on the remote and only the deaf use it. Closed captioning is taken for granted; it is available on every television after all. All you have to do is turn it on. But that was not always the case.

Originally intended as an option on television sets, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), made it mandatory to have the decoders for closed captioning built into any analog television 13 inches or larger beginning in July 1993. Digital TVs followed suit in July 2002. Not only did the FCC decree that TVs had to include these special decoders, but it also made decisions about the capabilities of these decoders as well, such as fonts, font sizes, colors, and ability to change settings to according to personal tastes. Everyone from advertisers to cable companies to the United States government pay for this feature.

The hearing impaired do make up the majority of users; however, there is a growing need for its use in the classroom to aid in building reading skills. Even though mixed letters (both upper and lowercase) are easier to read, descending letters such as g, j, p, q, and y typically get cut off in closed caption formatting making it harder to read. A defining feature of closed captioning is that background noises are also displayed on the screen in italicized lettering to differentiate it from character dialogue. This is one of the main differences between closed captioning and subtitles. Subtitles translate from one language to another, while closed captioning attempts to give the viewer context cues with background noises, character actions, and dialogue. Also, closed captioning is available in Spanish, which needed with the growing population of Spanish-speaking only consumers.

Over the years, the need to have closed captioning has increased by leaps and bounds. Fortunately the technology is keeping pace with necessity. And it is everywhere, not just televisions. Listed below are links that can provide more in-depth information.

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