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U.S. cuts funding for some closed captioning

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

By David Bauder, The Associated Press

The U.S. Education Department has cut the money for captioning nearly 200 TV programs, citing a 1997 mandate from Congress only to pay for captioning of "educational, news and informational" programming.

But advocates for the deaf say they haven't been able to find out why the department has decided to finance some programs and not others, and who's making these decisions.

"The department wants to ensure that over 28 million deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are not exposed to any non-puritan programming -- never mind that the rest of the country may be allowed to be exposed to such," said Kelby Brick, associate executive director of the National Association of the Deaf.

Left unclear, however, is how many of the shows on the government's "disapproved" list have actually stopped being captioned.

The vast majority of the affected shows are either on cable networks or PBS, with most of the broadcast network fare being sports. Few first-run, broadcast network prime-time shows are affected; CBS says the network or producer pays to caption all of its prime-time programs anyway.

Among the shows cut off from government funds: MTV's "Cribs," Disney Channel's "Lizzie McGuire," reruns of "Bewitched" and "I Dream of Jeannie," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle."

But along with CBS, Fox also said that it's picking up the cost to keep its programs captioned, and Nickelodeon is paying to keep children's programs like "Rugrats" and "Fairly Odd Parents" captioned.

Until then, there are gaps in what's being captioned.

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