Another Choice for Communications Technology: An Analysis of Policy Implications for Closed-Captioning Services in Taiwan


Yu-Li Liu . Chung-Chuan Yang


Closed-captioning of television programs uses vertical blanking interval technology to deliver textual information that is not shown on television screen to the audience with special needs. Closed captioning can offer vital benefits mainly for people with hearing disabilities by displaying the audio portion of a television signal as printed words on the television screen. As early as the 1980s, the Pub lic Broadcasting Stations in the U.S. have widely adopted this new technology to shift from their long-used open captioning since 1970s.

In Taiwan, the addition of captions to all television programs has its historical and political origins. It provides a uniform written language for all Chinese from multiethnic and multi-linguistic backgrounds to understand program contents. However, as Mandarin has become lingua franca in Taiwan, it is appropriate to change from current open captioning to closed captioning that can be retrieved through a decoder.

The purpose of this study is to (1) examine current development of closed captions in Taiwan and other nations; (2) analyze how audience, especially hearing-impaired viewers react to close captions; (3) discuss how broadcasters respond to this new captioning practice; (4) discuss whether manufacturers can produce affordable closed caption decoders to people who need them; (5) discuss whether government is ready for closed-captioning and whether relevent regulations and laws should be stipulated or revised.

This research employs four methods to approach these issues comprehensively. An extensive literature review illustrates the development of closed captions in Taiwan and other parts of the world. In depth interviews and expert panels are conducted to seek comments on the current availability, cost, and uses of the closed-captioning service in Taiwan. In addition, surveys of hearing-impaired individuals are conducted to solicit their views on close caption service in Taiwan.