Media Access Milestones

Television, film and computer/multi-media related activities




1927      First talking film The Jazz Singer produced, shutting a source of entertainment for deaf movie patrons.


1933      Talking Books program for the Blind established.


1947      Emerson Romero develops the first captioning of a film by putting captions between picture frames.


1948      British producer, J. Arthur Rank etches open captions onto glass slides, shown on a small inset in the lower left-hand corner of the main screen. Clarence O'Connor and Edmund Boatner organize Captioned Films for the Deaf (CFD). Deaf and hard of hearing people enjoy the first open-captioned film America the Beautiful.


1958      Malcolm (Mac) Norwood becomes the first Chief of Media Services for the CFD at the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, forerunner of today’s US Department of Education.


1959      CFD begins acquiring and captioning educational films.


1968      CFD writes its first lesson guide for open-captioned educational films.



1970      National Bureau of Standards research possible applications of the time signal in the vertical blanking interval (VBI) of the television signal.


1971      The first National Conference on Television for the Hearing Impaired is held in Memphis, Tennessee while The Caption Center was established at WGBH, a PBS affiliate in Boston.


1972      National Association of Broadcasters determines captioning is feasible, allowing PBS to begin development and testing of Line 21 technology. Meanwhile The French Chef, with Julia Child airs on PBS with open captions as ABC demonstrates Mod Squad with closed captions at Gallaudet College. KRON-TV installs TTY for call-ins by deaf viewers in the San Francisco area.


1973      President Richard Nixon's inaugural speech open-captioned as The Caption Center begins open-captioned ABC World News Tonight, replacing commercial slots with deaf community news.


1975      The Caption Center captions ZOOM, the first children's series to be captioned. PBS petitions FCC to reserve part of TV signal for closed captioning.


1977      Development begins on Line 21 captioning decoders. Radio TTY center begins transmitting news to TTYs equipped with a radio receiver in the Philadelphia area.


1978      Gallaudet College conducts research into formats for closed captioning while production begins for captioning editing consoles.


1979      First program captioned ("subtitled") in England on BBC using the Ceefax Teletext system. EEG builds first closed captioning encoders. National Captioning Institute (NCI) formed with seed money from the US Department of Education.



1980      NCI begins closed captioning on ABC's Sunday Night Movie, NBC's The Wonderful World of Disney and PBS' Masterpiece Theater. Sears begin selling TeleCaption set-top decoders and television sets. IBM captions first television commercial. Captioned home videos become available; the first title is Force 10 from Navarone.


1981      The Caption Center develops portable off-line system for quicker turnaround. Sesame Street is the first closed-captioned children's television program.


1982      Real-time captioning begins with Academy Awards (Oscars) by Martin Block at NCI. ABC's World News Tonight begins real-time closed-captioning on Oct. 11. The Sugar Bowl Game becomes the first live sporting event to be captioned. The Caption Center develops Caption kits to promote educational benefits of captioning in the classroom. Australia Captioning Centre (ACC) debuts with The Barchester Chronicles. Canadian Captioning Development Agency is formed. December is declared the National Closed Captioned TV Month


1983      Line 21 real-time captioning begins in Canada as the World Conference on Captioning meet in Ottawa. The first opera production in the world presented with SURTITLES® was the Canadian Opera Company's staging of Elektra.


1984      Olympic games captioned live. Caption Center produces deaf community news on Extra-Vision - CBS' Teletext system. After years of protests, CBS begins Line 21 closed captioning of Dallas. PBS airs The Voyage of the Mimi the first dual language captioned program in English and Spanish, using the Caption 2 setting. CFD introduces their open captioned videocassettes and becomes Captioned Films and Videos (CFV).


1985      American Data Captioning (now VITAC) opens as first for-profit captioning service provider. First local news captioned in Kansas with electronic news Teleprompter system. Kellogg Co. becomes first corporate sponsor to fund captioning of TV series, Family Ties.


1986      In a first for America, The Caption Center captions real-time the local news programs in Boston for two hours a day. First tests of Descriptive Video Service (DVS) begin in Boston on Mystery! Computer Prompting & Captioning sells software that outputs captions simultaneously with pre-scripted Teleprompter data from the television studio. Xscribe Corporation introduces its real-time captioning system.


1987      WJLA TV-7 begins local news captioning of 11:00 news in Washington, DC. Subtitled Video Project established in Australia and more than 800 videos were captioned in 10 years.


1988      Caption Center establishes Consumer Affairs Department to educate deaf and hard of hearing viewers how to advocate for more captioning. PBS conducts national DVS test on American Playhouse. SAIC develops first Braille & large print TeleCaption System.


1989      Network prime time programs now 100% captioned. Music videos are now available with captioning. Image Logic ships first offline captioning system. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting provides start-up funds for DVS program. Ernie Hairston becomes the new Chief of Media Services for the US Department of Education upon retirement of Mac Norwood following 30 years of service.


1990      Cheetah Systems releases CAPtivator Online Real-time Captioning System.



1991      Captioning service providers help design new Line 21 decoder display standards for FCC. The Caption Center establishes the Media Access Research and Development Office - a pioneering facility dedicated to examining the needs and desires of underserved viewing audiences. Zenith Electronics Corp. is the first manufacturer to develop television models with a built-in captioning chip since the first TeleCaption TV sets were sold. NCI develops Line 21 decoder microchip with hopes to be placed in all new television sets manufactured under the Decoder Chip Act. ACC creates the National Working Party on Captioning in Australia.


1992      NTSC develops captioning standards with service providers, FCC and EIA. Canada Captions, Inc. formed for raising funds for closed captioning in Canada. Hillsborough County Florida and Fremont, California becomes the first county and city, respectively, to caption real-time all government and school board meetings, funded by a surcharge on all cable TV bills. Cheetah releases CAPtivator Offline, a post-production captioning system.


1993      President Clinton's Inauguration is first live event to have both captioning and DVS on PBS accessible for viewers with hearing or vision disabilities. The National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) is formed as the research arm of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and WGBH-TV. TRIPOD begins captioning feature films for special open-captioned movie screenings in theaters. There are more than 750 hours of captioning a week on network programs and more than 5,000 captioned home videos.


1994      The Caption Center introduces relocatable roll-up captioning during the Winter Olympic Games for CBS, which ensures that important action or graphics are not obscured with captions. The Information Superhighway Speech by Vice President, Al Gore, becomes the first live event to be captioned over the Internet. CAP-Media creates software for captioning, indexing, annotating and analyzing digital video and audio.


1995      Live! with Derek McGinty becomes the first regularly captioned regular Internet program.


1996      The Society of Motion Pictures & Television Engineers forms a task force to develop captioning standards on MPEG and DVD formats. Real-Time Reporters send captions over Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel and web page simultaneously.


1997      President Clinton's second inauguration speech is the first live event to be captioned on both television and the Internet simultaneously. Microsoft Corporation announces the development of Synchronized Accessible Multimedia Interchange (SAMI) computer and multimedia software captioning standards. The Caption Center celebrates its 25th anniversary. Gary Robson writes a book on the industry called Inside Captioning and receives the Saks Award from TDI. Movie captioning and descriptive narration premieres in movie theaters. Captioned radio debuts in Japan.


1998      Caption TV, Inc. develops Detection/Deletion Parental Control device to block profanity on television by muting audio and blanking captions when swear words appear in the dialogue. CFV introduces open captioned CD-ROMs and other multimedia software, and changes its name once again to Captioned Media Program (CMP).


1999      The Caption Center at WGBH closed captioned five feature movies the premiere year for their 10 Rear Window-equipped theaters throughout the country. In collaboration with the Caption Center, Lucent Digital Video create open interface specifications for digital television captioning while Microsoft Corporation releases Encarta Encyclopedia on CD-ROM with multi-media video captioning. VITAC expands national presence in local news captioning with MetroCaption services in San Francisco and Atlanta. MultiMedia Designs, Inc. develop captioning glasses in which captions appear on a screen inside the lens of one eye. $AVE_ON_TV.COM, a media ad placement service offers closed captioning sponsorships to help producers offset captioning costs. People for Better Television poll reveals that most television viewers support broadcasters licensing obligations to the community, including closed captioning and video descriptive services, in exchange for use of public airwaves.


2000      FCC launches beta version of in-house real-time Internet captioning to make Open Meetings and public forums accessible to Internet users with hearing disabilities., a web-based global TV network for the disabled brings ADA 10th anniversary torch events and political conventions with "webcapting" technology on the Internet. Air Force News becomes the first military funded regular programming to use captioning. The Weather Channel begins 20 hours of captioning on its all-weather cable network. VITAC joins Legalink to form WordWave and introduces REACT, an emergency news captioning service to help newscasters comply with new FCC regulations on access to television during emergencies. Two class-action lawsuits were filed in Portland, Oregon and Washington, DC against movie theaters for not accommodating patrons who request captioning. The Coalition for Movie Captioning (CMC) emerges as a force in the push for access at local cinemas.


2001      Several captioning providers start streaming video captioning on the Internet. The Weather Channel becomes the first cable network to offer captioning 20 hours a day. WGBH's National Center for Accessible Media publishes guidelines for making software accessible to deaf or blind users. WGBH and VITAC expand their services to include video description for viewers with visual impairments. Digital Theater Systems, an established theatrical sound system vendor inaugurates its Cinema Subtitling System (DTS-CSS) with a pilot showing of Pearl Harbor during the TDI Conference. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the US Department of Commerce develops weather radios with strobe lights and vibrating alarms to alert deaf and blind citizens of approaching severe weather. The Captioned Media Program joins forces with, an Internet website, to bring classic films and television programs to the Internet with open captioning. New laws mandate increased captioning in Canada and Australia.



2002      Captioning providers agree to form an industry trade association to address quality issues. Digital television sets now display the next generation of closed captioning under EIA 708-B standards. Walt Disney World offers breakthrough technology of mobile captioning through handheld receivers on certain attractions. Microvision offers new "helmet" type display for captioning in movies or live theater. Father of deaf child launches third class action lawsuit for movie captioning in Houston, Texas. NCI opens new facility in Dallas, Texas to handle Spanish captioning. Real-time voice-to-text captioning and CART using automatic speech recognition comes to the market place.

2003      More than 20 captioning and video description providers form industry trade association, Accessible Media Industry Coalition, or AMIC.  America Online debuts regular online captioning of its help tutorials, animation series and CNN’s thrice daily QuickCast news briefs.  Regular Spanish captioning on CC2 channel begins on 60 Minutes I & II and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  National Court Reporters Association develops new certifications for CART and Captioning.