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News Archive

For immediate release
January 16, 2009

Media Access Group at WGBH to Provide Closed Captioning and Live Description for PBS's Inaugural Coverage

Described Version of Coverage Will Also Stream Live on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) Web Site

The Media Access Group at WGBH, a non-profit service of the WGBH Educational Foundation in Boston, Massachusetts, will provide both closed captioning and live description of Barack Obama's presidential inauguration for the PBS presentation of Inauguration 2009, a NewsHour special hosted by Jim Lehrer. The PBS coverage of the inauguration airs live on Tuesday, January 20 from 11AM to 1:30PM EST. While live captioning is an established feature of many television broadcasts, live description, the creation at time of air of a narration track imparting information about visual elements that people who are blind or visually impaired would miss, is a rare service. Dunkin' Donuts is generously sponsoring the description service for this broadcast. In 1993, PBS's coverage of the Clinton inauguration was the first live television program that was made fully accessible to the nation's 36 million deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and visually impaired viewers.

While details from the inaugural planning committee are still forthcoming, PBS plans to include coverage of Barack Obama's arrival at the White House, excerpts of the church service and Barack Obama's speech to the nation from the Capitol steps.

Hosted by Jim Lehrer of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, the PBS presentation will feature political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks, as well as a panel to provide historical context:

- Ellen Fitzpatrick, presidential historian and professor at the University of New Hampshire
- Peniel Joseph, professor of history and African-American studies at Brandeis University
- Richard Brookhiser, senior editor at National Review and author of a series of biographies of America's founders, including Alexander Hamilton and George Washington

"WGBH is proud to take part in making this historic event fully accessible to all PBS viewers once again," says Media Access Group director Larry Goldberg. "And we're extremely grateful to PBS, the team at MacNeil/Lehrer Productions and to corporate sponsor of the live description Dunkin' Donuts for the opportunity to bring not only the audio of the inaugural coverage to deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans, but also the visual highlights of the occasion to those who are blind or visually impaired."

Dunkin' Donuts, for many years a corporate caption sponsor of local news broadcasts in the Boston area, is sponsoring description for the first time. Shannon Maxwell, field marketing manager for Dunkin' Donuts says, "Dunkin' Donuts individual franchise owners are proud to play a part of making this major event accessible to blind and visually impaired audiences. We are thrilled that our contribution will make the images of the day come alive via description."

Closed captions display spoken dialogue as text on the television screen. The live captions will be typed by specially trained stenocaptioners-- working from WGBH's Boston-based headquarters-- and broadcast simultaneously with the live program. The descriptive narration-- provided by an expert team of describers-- will be audible during pauses in program dialogue and will identify speakers, describe settings and convey other visual information about the event. Captions can be accessed on televisions equipped with built-in decoders (most televisions are equipped), while viewers can hear descriptions by switching to the Second Audio Program (SAP) channel on their stereo TVs. The described coverage will also be streamed live on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) Web site

The Media Access Group at WGBH incorporates The Caption Center, the world's first captioning agency, founded in 1972; Descriptive Video Service® (DVS®), which has made television, film and video more accessible to blind and visually impaired audiences since 1990; and the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), a research and development entity that builds on the success of WGBH's access service departments to make existing and emerging technologies more accessible to these under-served audiences. Members of the Media Access Group's collective staff represent the leading resources and experts in their fields.

Contact:
Mary Watkins
Media Access Group at WGBH
617 300-3700 voice
617 300-2489 TTY
mary_watkins@wgbh.org


















Caption Services Description Services NCAM