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July 14, 2002

Press Release

Media Access Group at WGBH Publishes New MAG Guides

Now available in print and online versions – Guides cover the FCC's captioning and description mandates for television and how to access description on television

Boston, MA — The Media Access Group at WGBH has published the latest in a series of consumer guides to issues related to media access. Media Access Group (MAG) Guides are publications which contain tools, strategies and helpful hints for consumers and that further WGBH's leadership in providing clear and concise information to consumers with hearing or vision loss, as well as parents, teachers and others with a stake in creating equal access to all forms of media.

MAG Guide Volume 3 – The FCC's rules for closed captioning and video description for TV, offers guidance to the somewhat complex mandates governing the provision and availability of closed captioning and video description on television.

Since 1996, the FCC has adopted mandates that enable American audiences with hearing or visual disabilities to enjoy access to television that was once unavailable to them. The full Report and Orders on closed captioning (FCC #97-279, adopted 8/7/97, updated 9/17/98) and video description (FCC #00-258, adopted 7/21/00) are available on the FCC's Web site at For general information and inquiries, contact

MAG Guide Volume 4- How to access video description on your television is a simple guide to activating video description through the Second Audio Program (or SAP channel) of stereo-equipped televisions or VCRs. Stand-alone SAP receivers are also available, though most TVs and VCRs purchased within the past eight years are equipped with SAP capability.

Requests for print copies (can be easily copied/reproduced) should be directed to the Media Access Group's Boston office: Media Access Group at WGBH, 125 Western Avenue, Boston, MA 02134, via phone at 617 300-3400 voice, 617 300-2489 TTY, or via e-mail at The Guides can also be found online at

Video description— developed and provided by the Media Access Group— provides descriptive narration of key visual elements, making television programs, feature films, home videos and other visual media accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. Key visual elements are those which viewers who are visually impaired would ordinarily miss, such as actions, costumes, gestures, facial expressions, scene changes and on-screen text. Inserted within the natural pauses in dialogue, audio descriptions of important visual details help to engage viewers with the story.

Closed captioning— also pioneered and provided by the Media Access Group— displays spoken dialogue as text on the television screen (like subtitles), enabling viewers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to read the audio that they would ordinarily miss. Unlike subtitles, captions are specifically designed for viewers with hearing disabilities and are carefully placed to identify speakers, on- and off-screen sound effects, music and laughter. Closed captions also can benefit adults and children who are learning to read, as well as people learning English as a second language.

The Media Access Group has published two previous MAG Guides and will publish additional volumes in the future. Volume 1: Information for teachers about recording DVS on VHS offers simple instructions to teachers and parents of children with visual impairments on how to record described television programs for viewing in the classroom or at home. Volume 2: Producing programs and videos for viewers with vision loss offers script and production tips to television networks and video production houses. These documents are posted on the Group's Web site

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer. More than one-third of PBS's prime-time lineup and companion Web content as well as many public radio favorites are produced by WGBH. Its best-known productions include NOVA, Frontline, American Experience, Antiques Roadshow, ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre, This Old House, Arthur, and Zoom on PBS and The World and Sound & Spirit on public radio. WGBH also is a pioneer in educational multimedia and in technologies and services that make media accessible to people with disabilities. Since its establishment in 1951, WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors, including Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards-- even two Oscars. For more information visit


Mary Watkins, Media Access Group at WGBH
617.300.3700 voice/fax
617.300.2489 TTY