WGBH's Media Access Group Intros DTV Caption Service

At NAB 2003, the Media Access Group, a non-profit division of Boston-based pubcaster WGBH, demo-ed a new closed captioning system that takes advantage of digital technology to allow the hard of hearing to control the display of closed caption text on DTV sets. The demo included a national PBS broadcast of captioned HD programming carried by the Las Vegas PBS station KLVX, and a Zenith set-top box connected to one of its large screen displays in the Las Vegas Convention Center lobby. At the "DTV Drafthouse" exhibit area, attendees had a chance to interact with the technology.

Now, closed captioning viewers can control the font, color and size of the caption display thanks to new closed caption decoders in digital televisions and set-top boxes built to the DTV closed captioning specification (EIA-708B). FCC rules require the new decoders in all DTV devices manufactured since July 1, 2002 and provide an increased amount of EIA-708B captioned programming.

The captioned broadcast was coordinated and presented by the National Center for Accessible Media, the research, development and advocacy arm of the Media Access Group. The PBS HD service plans to continue supplying captions are more programs become available; another four-channel SD satellite feed carries caption services on a regular basis. The manufacturers participating in the DTV Drafthouse included Zenith, Sharp, Sony, Panasonic, ADB (STB), Thomson/RCA and ATI.

The Media Access Group lobbies to make media and technology accessible to those with hearing and visual disabilities.