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Deaf activists accuse feds of captioning "censorship"
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Feb. 24, 2004 -- The decision last fall by the U.S. Department of Education to declare almost 200 television shows "inappropriate" for captioning has mobilized advocates to press the Administration to reverse the decision. National Association of the Deaf President Andrew J. Lange, in a letter to Pres. Geo. Bush, called it "censorship".

"The government is refusing to caption 'Bewitched' and 'I Dream of Jeannie,' apparently fearing that the deaf would fall prey to witchcraft if they viewed the classic sitcoms,' wrote the Palm Beach Post's Dan Moffett on the Sunday, Feb. 8 editorial page. "Your government also believes that 'Law & Order' is too intense for the hard-of-hearing. So is 'Power Rangers.'" (For a list of the programs the Department isn't planning to caption, go to NAD's Action Alert. Read Moffett's article. )

"The vast majority of the affected shows are either on cable networks or PBS," wrote the Associated Press's David Bauder in a story last Thursday. Federal funds, he reported, "were to pay for captioning of "educational, news and informational" programming." (Read story. )

Normally, groups that have federal grants to do captioning rely on their consumer advisory boards to select programs for captioning (FCC rules say only 30 percent of reruns must be captioned -- the number rises to 75 percent in 2008). But last fall, the Education Dept. overrode a number of the boards' choices. "Nobody outside the Department knows the criteria being used to reach those decisions-and the Department isn't talking," says NAD.

The National Council on Disability has urging Education Secretary Roderick Paige to reverse the decision (read letter). Read more about this issue online at NAD.

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