Closed captions


Captions exist to make a video’s audio accessible to audiences with hearing needs or who prefer reading along. Captioning provides access to individuals who are deaf or have hearing loss and is often used in places where it is difficult to hear a TV program, such as restaurants and exercise facilities. 

They are similar to dialogue-only subtitles, except captions convey not only the content of spoken dialogue, but also equivalents for non-dialogue audio information needed to understand the program content, including sound effects, music, laughter, speaker identification and location.  They may be open (permanent) or closed (the viewer may turn them on or off.) Closed captions can be displayed and hidden by the user.


Emerson Romero was an early film actor and a Charlie Chaplin impersonator in the 1920s. He also happened to be deaf. Romero wanted the film to remain accessible to his community. Romero bought his own film reels and began experimenting by making text cards and splicing the film to insert them between scenes.

In the mid-1920s, Herman G. Weinberg began translating films into German using a Moviola. This machine allowed him to edit subtitles directly while watching a film.

Closed captioning was first demonstrated in the United States at the First National Conference on Television for the Hearing Impaired in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1971.

The National Captioning Institute was created in 1979 to get the cooperation of commercial television networks.

The first use of regularly scheduled closed captioning on American television occurred on March 16, 1980.

Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rules require captioned programs shown on TV to be captioned when re-shown on the Internet.


In some countries, captions are called subtitles.