Public service announcements push closed captioning

Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, Immersive Learning

February 25, 2009

Thanks to a group of Ball State University students, a pair of public service announcements (PSAs) designed to raise awareness about closed captioning may soon be seen on television broadcasts throughout the nation.
 
Written, shot and edited by graduate and undergraduate telecommunications students, the two PSAs bring to light the need for increased closed captioning of a variety of video programming in order to assist 34 million Americans with significant hearing loss.
 
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is distributing the PSAs to all television stations in the country through regular satellite feeds in the coming weeks.
 
Closed captions are on-screen text descriptions that display a video product's dialogue, identify speakers, and describe other relevant information that are otherwise inaccessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
 
"The issue came up in my graduate school class focusing on legal issues in digital storytelling," explains Barry Umansky, a telecommunications professor and former NAB legal counsel. "At that point, we thought it would be a great idea if we came up with a couple of scripts that focused on the growing need for closed captioning not only for television programming, but all sorts of emerging media."
 
"We came up with the scripts, and then they were developed by students from a class taught by Tim Pollard in telecommunications," he said. "When we were done, I made a few calls to contacts in NAB, and they thought highly enough of the finished spots that NAB's offering them up nationally to television stations across the country."
 
The PSAs offer viewers a link to www.captioninfo.org, a site hosted by Ball State's Office of Disabled Student Development, which assisted in the video project.
 
The PSAs have been posted on YouTube.com and may be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8yYB_9A4Xo and www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkBS8wlJFjE.

Umansky said his current graduate-level class is reviewing other potential issues for new scripts that would eventually be produced by students within the College of Communication, Information, and Media
 
"I think we've opened the door to an ongoing project that could result in changes in how we think about different issues related to the media," he said. "Eventually, we believe such PSAs could be viewed on a variety of platforms because today's media are expanding."

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