Friday, December 5, 2008

CBS Means "Couldn't Be Stupider"

Now that episodes of television shows from The Colbert Report (funny) to Private Practice (laughable) are available on line, I'd sure like to be able to tune in and understand the dialogue.

Closed captioning isn't available on the smaller channels' web sites, but among the major networks, CBS is the only one that doesn't provide it. Granted, CBS isn't where you go for, say, witty dialogue, but the Americans with Disabilities Act still requires it to accommodate the hard of hearing.

The network isn't exactly rushing to live up to its responsibility with respect to the ADA. I recently emailed CBS thus:

I would like to see you provide closed captioning for your web broadcasts.1 NBC does it--there's a CC button in the controls ribbon of its rebroadcast shows. The programs are already captioned. C'mon--you don't want to wait till Uncle Sam enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act. You'll be doing it eventually, so why not sic a geek on it now?

Could you please forward this comment on to the appropriate person? Thank you.

CBS replied:
CBS is currently not capable of providing captions online, as is the case with the majority of broadcasters. Our CBS Interactive division developers are working on a solution to make the CBS video player caption ready. The launch date is still to be determined.

We are also working with industry peers as we try to come up with a voluntary industry wide solution. We expect the establishment of a formal industry standards working group to occur soon.

Thanks for watching CBS!

Sincerely,
CBS Captioning

They'd have been better off saying "Stay tuned--we're working on it!" than rolling out a bucket o' BS like that. So I replied:
Dear CBS Accessible Media:

I have put some thought into your reply to my email, and frankly, I cannot see it as anything but disingenuous. If you're trying to come up with a boilerplate response for such inquiries, you're going to have to do much better, starting by substituting facts for cowpies. Specifically:

* CBS is perfectly capable of providing captions on line. Any idiot with a videocamera and a computer can put captions on line. I can provide you with several sets of online instructions.

* Your two biggest broadcast competitors, NBC and ABC, have captions on line. "The majority of broadcasters" may include public television in Kokomo, but CBS can't pretend it suffers from a similar lack of resources, let alone technical talent.

* Again, since NBC and ABC provide captions on line, you cannot say that "broadcasters are coming up with a standard." That's a lie--or, to put it more generously, evidence suggests it is a lie. If broadcasters can provide captions, you don't collectively need a standard. If you do need a standard, you can develop one concurrently.

* To say "We expect the establishment of a formal industry standards working group to occur soon" is to say "We think you're an idiot." I'm sure I need not elaborate.

In short, your answer is not credible. Responses like yours are what make legal enforcement of the ADA necessary, and what makes FCC enforcement of broadcast standards necessary.

I will be posting your reply and my response to it on my blog and, frankly, wherever else I can.2

Shame on you.3

Hey, what else can ya do? Take it up with the Feds with the Bushies still in charge?

1If the note sounds a little snotty, it's because after searching all over the CBS web site for an email address for comments, I finally wound up sending it to Face the Nation. Very frustrating.
2This statement doubtless has the dork lawyers of CBS shivering in terror.
3...especially the ones who are still scared of Mom.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

I used to work for the federal government in USGS. We were not allowed to post anything to the web after passage of section 8, ADA compliance, without it being ready for screenreaders. I'm sure that videos have to be captioned as well.

Shame on them indeed. I concur with your response to their initial response.