Thursday, February 25, 2010

SIX New Cosponsors For HR 3101!

Caption Action 2 just learned today that not two, not three, but SIX representatives became cosponsors for HR 3101!


Rep Ben Chandler [KY-6]











Rep Lincoln Davis [TN-4]











Rep Dennis Moore [KS-3]













Rep Richard E. Neal [MA-2]











Rep John W. Olver [MA-1]











Rep John F. Tierney [MA-6]













All are Democrats! We need Republicans! Plus, none of the new cosponsors are on the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.

Representative Tierney was a previous cosponsor. Let's welcome him back!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Slaughter and Berman Sign on to HR 3101!

Two more Democratic Representatives were added to the HR 3101 cosponsor list yesterday: Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and Representative Howard Berman (D-CA). (Slaughter represents Rochester, New York so the residents of that deaf-friendly town should be cheering!) Now the score is Democrats 32, Republicans 0! Why haven't any Republicans signed on yet to HR 3101 too? Surely they are hearing from deaf and hard of hearing constituents in their districts too?



Do Republicans understand the importance of this bill to deaf and hard of hearing people regardless of political party affiliation? Even the late President Ronald Reagan had a hearing aid!

Monday, February 22, 2010

ABC.Com Makes Serious Committment to Captioning!

Today the word flashed around Twitter: ABC.com has made a very serious commitment to captioning online! Marlee Matlin's earlier testimony at the FCC hearing led to ABC.com's (Disney)'s decision! ABC has announced it will caption all their "long form" content online!

ABC has long been a leader in captioning, ever since the days of the captioned ABC news. Now, history repeats itself as ABC.com takes the lead in internet captioning!

This is major - so major that Caption Action 2 is at a loss for words for once! ABC.com's commitment basically says to all the other channels online, "See, we recognize that television online is the same as regular television, and therefore it should be captioned too!" It could also give a strong boost to our efforts to pass HR 3101, because we can show Congress that the will is there, and it just needs to be codified to prod the others into doing it too!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Harris Corp Says Local Mobile DTV Will be CC!

Caption Action 2 just received some rather eye-opening news. Harris Corporation, a broadcast communications company based in Melbourne, Florida, posted a comment on About.com's Deafness page.

Harris said "yes" to the question of captions on local mobile digital TV. Read the full statement here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

White House Delaying Web Captioning?

Is the White House delaying the captioning of their web video? On February 13, Caption Action 2 received an email from someone complaining that the White House's online videos were not captioned. What is this? Caption Action 2 investigated on February 14th.

What we found:
  • On WhiteHouse.gov video section: Up until February 11, the videos were captioned. After February 11, the captions stopped. Most videos between February 11 and February 13 were not captioned. On a video by video basis, in reverse chronological order:

    • February 13 - John Brennan, Questions on National Security: no captions, no transcript
    • February 13 - John Brennan, Speaks on National Security: no captions, no transcript
    • February 12 - Obama Weekly Address: captioned! also a transcript.
    • February 12 - Obama Addresses US-Islamic World Forum: has Arabic subtitling, but no English captions, and no transcript.
    • February 12 - Obama Message to team USA: no captions, no transcript
    • February 12 - Press Briefing: no captions, no transcript
    • February 12 - Obama Lunar New Year: no captions, no transcript
    • February 11 - Press Briefing: no captions, a transcript provided


  • On YouTube, the WhiteHouse channel, in reverse chronological order:

    • February 14 - John Brennan Takes Questions: no captions
    • February 13 - John Brennan Speaks: no captions
    • February 12 - Obama Weekly Address: captioned!
    • February 12 - Press Briefing: no captions
    • February 12 - Lunar New Year: captioned!
    • February 11 - Press Briefing: captioned!

So what is going on here?? Section 508 requires that Federal websites be accessible. Yet it is clear that the White House is inconsistent with their captioning! Note that they did not caption the February 12 Lunar New Year video on WhiteHouse.gov, but the same video is captioned on YouTube.

Last week, something similar happened with Hulu. When the Valentine's Day episode of Modern Family was first posted on Hulu, there were no captions. Then a day or two later, it was captioned. The same thing happened earlier with an episode of Heroes.

Are we deaf and hard of hearing people SECOND CLASS citizens who must wait until captions are added to videos?! Not even the White House will postpone posting a video until captions are added?! This is totally unfair to deaf and hard of hearing people, making us wait for captions while hearing people get to see the videos right away!

We need to demand that the White House establish a policy of not posting their videos until closed captions have been added! To do otherwise means that even the White House thinks deaf and hard of hearing people are second class citizens! If hearing people have to wait, too bad -- equal access means just that, EQUAL.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rep, DeGette Won't Publicly Commit to HR 3101!


Caption Action 2 was granted permission to share a letter from Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) to a Caption Action 2 supporter. (DeGette is on the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.) Instead of reprinting the entire letter, Caption Action 2 wishes to focus on the key statement by Representative DeGette:

Some who work for the industry argue that this would place an unfair economic burden on them, but that was also argued when closed captioning was signed into law in 1990. It is widely accepted that closed captioning has been an indispensable service for millions of Americans, and did not place an economic burden on the television and film industry.
Read the entire letter.

Note that DeGette wrote that closed captioning did NOT place an economic burden on the industry. In spite of their whining back then, that it would. DeGette also has her facts incorrect. In 1990, it was the Television Decoder Circuitry Act that was passed. Closed captioning itself did not become mandatory on television until 1996, when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed in Congress.

While it sounds like DeGette is prepared to support HR 3101, Caption Action 2 noted that NOWHERE in her letter did she state that she would cosponsor the bill. Clearly she too is "afraid" of Rick Boucher! Clearly she too will not come out on the subcommittee in support of this bill until Rick Boucher moves the bill!

What's that they say? Actions speak louder than words?

Does Comcast Even Care About Deaf?

Caption Action 2 was contacted by a deaf customer of Comcast. The customer granted permission to reprint the letter, as well as the response from Comcast.

Customer's Email to Caption Action 2
I appreciate all the effort that you are doing in the Caption 2 action movement.

I wanted to ask if you are aware that Comcast cable company advertises from their homepage that you can watch tv from their site now. Only problem is that I have yet to find a way to watch any of their programming captioned. I was wondering if you had any information about that. I did email them today to ask about that as well.

Also, Some of their "OnDemand" programming appears to be without captions when the program had originally aired, it had captions. An example would be the fairly popular series, "Burn Notice", which appears on the USA network.

I also emailed Comcast very briefly about that. Are there guidelines somewhere for effective ways to complain or protest about issues like these? Who are the best people to contact about issues like these?

In the case of the issue regarding online captioning of programming, I thought Caption 2 Action might be a good place to contact.

Then the customer gave more details of their effort to get captioning on Comcast OnDemand:
Also regarding the captioning OnDemand, my father tried talking to one of the chatroom people. They bumped it up to their supervisor who decided they needed to send a pulse to his box to fix the problem. It didn't fix the problem. The sending the pulse to your box thing seems to be their solution for when they don't know what to do. We had run into that on another issue here. I know it isn't related to the Caption 2 Action goal, but it is sort of related because it is the same company and how they are dealing with hearing impaired and captioning problems.

Comcast's Unsatisfactory Response

Comcast wrote to the customer:
Thank you for reaching out to Fancast.

I understand that you want to be able to watch programs with Captions online. I do apologize however right now, this feature is not yet currently available in Fancast.

Our product team is constantly working on improving the site to make the best experience possible. Thanks for your suggestion, we'll consider your idea for a future release.

Thanks,

Iryn
The Fancast Support Team

Bottom Line!

Idea?? Comcast considers our need for closed captioning online to be an IDEA?? This is an insulting statement for them to make!! And they will quote, "CONSIDER" the "idea" for a future release? This is yet another example of why we need HR 3101! Companies just push us deaf and hard of hearing aside in the rush to market to make money! Then they say "oh, maybe we will consider it for later..."

This attitude on the part of companies is downright maddening! We need the legal protection of HR 3101 to force companies like Comcast to do the right thing because they obviously won't do it voluntarily!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

MobiTV Does Not Caption Either...

Today Caption Action 2 contacted another mobile digital television company, MobiTV, in an effort to find out where they are on closed captioning. The results were not promising. Three calls were made, first to the customer service department, and then to the public relations department, twice. Finally, an email was sent to the chief technology officer for MobiTV asking questions. No response has been received yet.

Call to Customer Service
Caption Action 2 : does mobi tv have any closed captioning support? remember i said i am deaf. ga
MobiTV : no, there is no closed captioning on any of our stations. GA
Caption Action 2 : do you have any plans to add closed captioning? if you are not able to answer the question, please give me the name and number of someone at mobi tv who can answer the question. ga
MobiTV : uhm well it's not currently supported uh we consistently upgrade and expand our services and may provide it in the future unfortunately, there is no possible release date. please check our press announcements regarding our uhm check our press announcements regarding that uh uh feature at (confirming mobitv.com. GA
Caption Action 2 : what cell phones can have mobitv on them? i am thinking of buying an iPhone ga
MobiTV : uhm well uh there's over 400 different devices uh so specifically the iphone's not currently compatible. there is a compatibility list on our website and i can actually give you the website address for that hold on just a second ok i found it it's uh the compatibility list can be found at www.mobitv.com/getmobitv (confirming spelling). GA
Caption Action 2 : ok thanks. i looked at your press releases and did not see the name of any public relations person at mobi tv who i could talk to to get further clarification of your captioning plans if there are any. ga
MobiTV : currently there may not be. in the future, that's where they you'd be able to find out information on it. GA
Caption Action 2 : i understand but i need to talk to someone in your public relations department. can you give me the name and contact information for someone qga
MobiTV : you could try mobi tv headquarters at mobitv headquarters at 510 438 6624. GA

Call to Public Relations
MobiTV : ok we re always looking for ways to serve our customers but at this time we dont have anything to speak publicly
Caption Action 2 sent an email to chief technology officer Kay Johnannson. No response yet.


Last Call to Public Relations

MobiTV : umm okay uh um currently mobitv does not offer umm closed captioning and while we are looking or always looking for ways to serve our customer base we are not stating anything more publicly and thank you for your call GA

Bottom Line


It is clear from the conversations above, that MobiTV has no intention of trying to provide closed captioning support anytime soon. Caption Action 2 sent a second email to the CTO informing him about HR 3101.

Caption Action 2 was not aware that mobile digital television has evolved to become the cell phone equivalent of cable television.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Flo TV Can't Commit to Captioning!

Today Caption Action 2 spoke with Matthew Hutchison, the Senior Director of Public Relations for Flo TV. It was a discouraging conversation, as shown below:

(Flo TV is a mobile digital TV broadcaster, as explained in the previous Caption Action 2 blog post)
Matthew: hi this (confirming spelling) matthew GA
Caption Action 2 : hello this is jamie berke calling back at 9 pm eastern time as agreed ga
Matthew : hello jamie GA
Caption Action 2 : i sent you an email with the questions. you know what my questions are..do you have any answers for me qga
Matthew : at this point in time flo tv (confirming spelling) does not support close captioning but it is something we are considering in the future GA
Caption Action 2 : how far into the future? do you have any rough idea of when closed captioning would be available qga
Matthew : i do not but i will keep you posted GA
Caption Action 2 : what about the Flo TV chip? could you re-engineer that to add closed captioning circuitry? then a cell phone that has Flo TV such as the iPhone, could show captions on Flo TV programming. ga
Matthew : it is not a question of the chip GA
Caption Action 2 : it is not? what is it then qga
Matthew : will you honor off the record comments qq GA
Caption Action 2 : why does it have to be off the record qga
Matthew : i m willing to address questions if in many cases the bloggers will allow us to speak on background and off the record if that s not the case i can t answer questions GA
Caption Action 2 : everything you say has to be on the record so to speak. my next question - I know that Flo TV has its own mobile TV standard. there is another standard that was just approved called the Open Mobile Digital TV standard [actually it is Open Mobile Video Coalition]. I think that's the name, from memory., that standard already supports closed captioning. Is there any way Flo TV could borrow from that standard to add closed captioning capability qga
Matthew : as stated we are looking into this when we have developments i will let you know GA
Caption Action 2 : alright. are you able to give me any idea, even a very rough one, of when you might be able to support closed captioning? a year from now? five years from now qga
Matthew : uhh i uhh i cannot commit to a time frame at this time GA
Caption Action 2 : i see that we can't discuss captioning any further. before i go..do you know about a new bill in congress, HR 3101, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009? qga

[Was on hold awhile and when he came back Caption Action 2 repeated the question]

Matthew :
i personally do not GA
Caption Action 2 : well that bill has a provision that will affect Flo TV, so I suggest you make closed captioning a higher priority than it is now. ga
Matthew: thank you will look into it GA

Caption Action 2 offered to tell him what that provision(s) was, but he had to run because of a family emergency. So that was the end of that conversation.

Bottom line: It looks like we deaf and hard of hearing people CAN NOT expect closed captioning support or closed captioned programming from Flo TV anytime soon.

Monday, February 8, 2010

See Flo TV Super Bowl Ad? Flo TV Doesn't Caption!

What is Flo TV?? Flo TV is an example of why we need HR 3101!

Note: Caption Action 2 has contacted Flo TV with questions and is waiting for their response any time now. In the meantime, here is what we know about Flo TV, and more!

What is Flo TV

Flo TV is a mobile TV broadcaster. They broadcast mobile television to cell phones, the back of car headrests, and to a Flo TV Personal Television mobile device. Flo TV was launched in March 2007 as MediaFlo TV by Verizon Wireless and MediaFlo USA. Today they are a subsidiary of Qualcomm. That means they have had since 2007 to make themselves accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing? Did they??

No, they did not! On their FAQ page it says:
Q: Is Closed Captioning available on the FLO TV™ service?

A: No. Currently, the FLO TV service does not support closed captioning. New product features will be announced on our website.
Flo TV is apparently NOT broadcast over the Internet. It is regular digital television broadcast over UHF channels. Flo TV is available on AT&T and Verizon cell phones, and is coming to the iPhone too. A check of the AT&T Mobile TV FAQ page shows nothing about captioning. Neither does Verizon's V Cast Mobile TV FAQ.

Caption Action 2 made a call to Verizon Wireless to confirm the lack of captions. This is the relay conversation:
Verizon: my name is brandy GA
Caption Action 2: hello brandy. i have a question. I hope you can answer my question. if not please put me in touch with someone who can. I am interested in getting Flo TV which is available on Verizon's cell phones. But I am deaf. I need closed captions. Are closed captions available on Flo TV service on Verizon's cell phones qga
Verizon: ok let me pull up some let me pull up some information regarding flo tv so that i can check if closed captions is available GA
Caption Action 2: yes please. i checked their website and it looks like closed captions are not available but i wanted to double check with you. ga
Verizon: i ve looked through my information and unfortunately at this point mobile tv with flo tv does not have available closed captions yet GA
She recommended I consider buying for example, a Blackberry for Verizon service. Blackberry does have closed captioning display capability as explained in this blog post from Inside the Blackberry Accessibility Team. The iPhone can also display closed captions. WGBH Media Access Group provided Caption Action 2 with a table that lists handheld devices and their captioning capability.

Captioning Solutions for Handheld Media and Mobile Devices Comparison Chart

There was no point in calling AT & T too. The answer would be the same - no captions because Flo TV does not have them. This would be true no matter what cell phone carried the Flo TV service.

Instead, Caption Action 2 called Flo TV directly to ask for confirmation of the information on their website. Spoke with the assistant to Bill Stone, Flo TV's president. She said that the information on the website about lack of closed captioning is correct. When Jamie asked about the possibility of re-engineering the Flo TV chip, which is needed for a device to be able to receive Flo TV broadcasts -- to add closed caption decoding circuitry, the assistant said the Flo TV chips were provided by the Qualcomm Tech Department and she did not know anything about engineering. Jamie wasn't satisfied with this response, and asked for more information. That's why Caption Action 2 is still waiting for a response from someone else with Flo TV, as noted above.

Is Flo TV Breaking the Law?

The FCC captioning regulations state that a multichannel video programming distributor is covered by the law. A multichannel video programming distributor is defined in 47 CFR section 76.1000(e). According to the COAT position statement and Justia.com, a multichannel video programming distributor is defined as:"...an entity engaged in the business of making available for purchase, by subscribers or customers, multiple channels of video programming."

Based on this definition and the fact that Flo TV has multiple channels, does this mean that existing law already covers Flo TV? Flo TV is a subscription service, AND they offer multiple "cable" channels such as TLC.

Does HR 3101 Apply to Flo TV?

In addition, a check of the HR 3101 bill found this language:
The term ‘video programming’ means programming provided by, or generally considered comparable to programming provided by, a television broadcast station, even if such programming is distributed over the Internet or by some other means.
Maybe "some other means" could be interpreted to include mobile digital television! Nevertheless, there are still open questions about both the existing law and the proposed law with regard to mobile digital television!

What Can We Do Now?

In the absence of a law to guarantee our right to access to services and devices like Flo TV, we deaf and hard of hearing people must take things into our own hands. We need to make such a public example of Flo TV that the next mobile television service to launch will think twice before leaving the deaf and hard of hearing out!

We can't wait for HR 3101 to be passed. Caption Action 2 suggests that deaf and hard of hearing people who want Flo TV to add captioning capability to their Personal Television device and to their mobile television broadcasts take the following actions:

  • Flo TV is on Facebook. Their Facebook URL is http://www.facebook.com/flotv. Become a fan of Flo TV and post complaints about their not having caption display capability!

  • Flo TV is on Twitter. Their Twitter URL is http://twitter.com/flotv. If you are on Twitter, post reply requests for captioning to @flotv, and include @deafnessguide so Caption Action 2 can track your Twitter posts.

  • Call Flo TV in their California office, at 858 587-1121 (Operator, and ask to be transferred to Flo TV). The Contact Us page is only a form with no phone number.

  • Flo TV's website includes a newsroom with a "in the news" section that reprints all the media coverage of Flo TV. Contact the reporters and media sources to let them know that Flo TV does not have closed caption capability. Caption Action 2 will be making some of these contacts ourselves.

  • Look for blogs that have blogged about FloTV. To find these blogs, use Google's blog search, Search Blogs for Flo TV. Post comments on the blogs, or contact the bloggers, to let them know about the lack of captioning capability on Flo TV.
The Bottom Line

Mobile television is starting to really grow! One look at the website/blogsite Reiter's Mobile TV Report shows this! A competitor to Flo TV is MobiTV. A search of their support knowledge base fails to turn up anything about captioning. But there's more! Free mobile digital TV is coming, according to the Los Angeles Times and other news sources. This free mobile television uses the Open Mobile Video Coalition's mobile digital TV standard for local television broadcasts (Flo TV is national broadcast), as reported by TechNewsWorld.com.

We need HR 3101!!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

New on the Blogroll: Who Cosponsors HR 1646, 3024, and 3101

One of the most effective tools for getting cosponsors for HR 3101 has been to contact the offices of Representatives who already cosponsor other bills for deaf and hard of hearing people. Caption Action 2 has combined all the available information about the cosponsors of all three bills into one handy at-a-glance spreadsheet. One look at this spreadsheet and you will see immediately if your representative already cosponsors other bills for deaf and hard of hearing people. This will make it easier for you to make the argument that if your rep cosponsors those bills, he or she should also cosponsor HR 3101!

The new spreadsheet is Who Cosponsors HR 1646, 3024, and 3101. (HR 1646 is the Hearing Aid Tax Credit. HR 3024 is the Medicare Hearing Health Care Enhancement Act.) Republicans are in bold text. As you can see, the other bills have at least some Republican support, while our bill, HR 3101, has none to date!

If you can't view Excel spreadsheets, here's a free Excel viewer.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rep. Devin Nunes Needs Contact From His People!

Today Caption Action 2 called Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) office, and spoke with Damon Nelson. Nelson later wrote back:

Thank you very much. We were honestly confused with the call. That was the first time I have ever had a relay call. It was very interesting and a great experience once I understood.

I will pass this on to the Congressman. But, he has a policy of having contact with a constituent before he cosponsors legislation.

So if you live in Fresno County, California, or in Tulare County, California, please contact the office of Rep. Devin Nunes at 202-225-2523 or email damon.nelson@mail.house.gov. Cities that Nunes represents are:
  • Clovis
  • Dinuba
  • Lindsay
  • Porterville
  • Reedley
  • Tulare
  • Visalia
If you call Nunes' office and ask for Damon Nelson, don't worry about his reaction to the relay service - as Jamie posted on Twitter, she already broke him in!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cosponsor 30 joins HR 3101!

Caption Action 2 just welcomed our 30th cosponsor, New Jersey Representative Donald Payne (D-10)!

This doubles the number of cosponsors since the previous version of bill.

Democrats 30 - Republicans 0

Monday, February 1, 2010

Texas Deaf! Help Get Rep. Michael McCaul!

Today Caption Action 2 had a very positive phone conversation with Laura Bunten (emailmccaul@mail.house.gov) in Representative Michael McCaul's office. McCaul is a Republican Congressman from Texas, and his district includes Austin, Texas. Bunten specializes in health issues, and told Caption Action 2 that Rep. McCaul "has been very supportive of deaf/blind issues."

This is the first time that ANY Congress staff person has said that a Congressman was supportive of deaf/blind issues. Therefore this gives us much hope that maybe, just maybe McCaul could be the first Republican to support HR 3101. If you live in McCaul's district, help us by calling his office at
202- 225-2401 and/or emailing Laura Bunten!