July 27, 2011

Quit Censoring Only the Captions!

**UPDATE: Issue has been resolved.**

Whether they intend to or not, I am tired of certain shows censoring the closed-captions, while you can hear the supposedly censored words. For example, I clearly could hear someone somewhat cursing on a television show, while it was censored in the captions. Either the word is substituted with another word that is not as offensive or the word is just not mentioned at all. This is a problem because when the captioning is censored while the spoken version is not, it intentionally leaves the deaf or hard of hearing person out. It tells me that I am not important enough to know exactly what was said, even if it was something offensive. I have the right to be included like everyone else.

If this is a mistake, they should fix it. Perhaps the captioning was done a long time ago before some words became acceptable on some shows. But, what about the new shows? What are their reasons? If they are intentionally censoring the captions, I would like to know why. Is it the captionist that refuses to type bad words? Are they really afraid of offending deaf and hard of hearing people or others who rely on captioning?

I am not against censoring when both spoken and captioned are censored. But, it is not fair if they are going to only censor captioned words that can be clearly heard by others.

I received an email from Scott about this issue. He sent a letter to AMC networks asking them to quit censoring only the closed-captions. He would like me to share his letter here. Perhaps this will inspire others to do the same.


Chairman of the Board

AMC Networks Inc.
℅ Corporate Secretary
11 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10001

July 24, 2011

Dear AMC Chairperson,

I write to you today as I, and many other Deaf/Hearing Impaired [D/HI] individuals, have never received a reply to our complaints to AMC via e-mail or U.S.-mail. The few individuals that have, received a, in my opinion, foolish response. My name is Scott Johnston, I live alone, and have multiple disabilities due to Neurofibromatosis Type Two. The main reason I write you is in regards to my 100% deafness and the way you edit closed captioning.

I have enjoyed many of your original series such as Rubicon, The Killing, and The Walking Dead, just to name a few. One very large exception being the censoring on the Closed Captioning. I hated the seemingly extreme nature of the censoring on the captioning and how some words with dual meanings are doubly censored. An example of that double censoring would be, "hand me a golf b----." I found out, by posting a comment regarding my frustration on TVGuide.com, that the sound was not censored for the hearing public. Upon searching via Google, I found others with the same complaint. There is even a Facebook group created and dedicated, to this issue, http://www.facebook.com/groups/amctvhatesdeaf.

Upon learning this discrimination I immediately stopped watching The Killing and will wait for the DVD which, if similar to The Walking Dead, will be uncensored in its Closed Captioning. I will be doing the same for the upcoming The Walking Dead second season. I will rent and not buy these as I will not, directly or indirectly, support a network that holds the D/HI in such a low regard. Basically AMC is saying to the D/HI, "D/HI people have to be protected. It's obvious they don't have the maturity and intelligence to see the big-person words. Please tell them to go away and leave the adults and hearing children alone."

Which leads me to the ridiculous reasons other have been given, "Children might be watching". By that logic, the sound would also be censored to "protect" the hearing children. I have 10-15 hearing friends & relatives that boycott Burger King and Taco Bell as national chains that do not caption their commercials. I am in the process of notifying people of this issue as well. If you multiply that possibility by multiple millions of D/HI across the country and world alone, that is a huge dent on your ratings potential.

In closing I ask this be corrected soon. I'm 40, I may not drink, smoke or do drugs, but that is my choice. I don't care if others do or not. If a word is spoken, it needs to be transcribed. I have multiple disabilities and I despise being perceived as being somehow an inferior person. Watch Breaking Bad or some other show with the sound turned off, and I am sure you will see what I mean.


Scott E. Johnston


  1. Just to note I wrote this with italics on the show names and a space between Dear and the first paragraph. I'za sloppy, not stoop-it! Just didn't clip-n-paste well. No big deal. ☺☻☺☻

  2. I had the same problem with "Breaking Bad". I have watched the previous seasons on DVD, and was now caught up to where I could watch the current season. Much to my surprise, the "bad words" were initialized and censored ("f---", "G--", "b----", etc.) while my wife, who is Hearing, could hear every word.

    We are Deaf, not children! If Hearing can hear it, we should be able to see it!

    I sent an email to AMC to complain as well, and have yet to receive a response.

  3. @Don G. - Unfortunately, there is a 95% chance you will not receive one. If you do, you'll probably get the quote above, "Children may be watChing."

  4. I think he meant when he watched the current season. My experiences with AMC (¿Absolutely Moronic Company?) DVD's are they are uncensored. I'm on of the few Americans who is not a fan of BB, so I can't be sure.

  5. No, on the DVD, I got the FULL language. It was just on AMC channel that the words are censored.

    And as for the "children may be watching" argument, this show is aired at 10 pm, when it can be reasonably assumed that children are not SUPPOSED to be watching. And like you pointed out, HEARING children in earshot of the show could hear the words, so why couldn't Deaf children in eyeshot (given poor parenting) see the words? Bah!

  6. I just tested this on a couple of channels here in the UK and the subtitles (there is usually no distinction made here between subtitles and CC) I found were not censored, though it is currently after 10pm. In the UK television material deemed suitable for age 15+ can only be broadcast after 9pm, and for 18+ it is 10pm - 5:30am is the morning cut-off point. I think if the show itself is censored then the subtitles are censored. I also tested this with subtitles on online TV services BBC iPlayer and 4oD, available at any time, and the swear words were in the subtitles as in the programme.

  7. Ummm, I have to ask, did you turn off the parental control for censoring on your device?

  8. There is a parental control for captioning? Please explain.

  9. @Xpressive Handz: PC is not even on in my condo (40 and live alone). Even if it was, the sound would be censored as well.

    @reluctantmusician most of Europe has been, in shows and adapting new technology in TV, further ahead of the US.

  10. I doubt I have parental control, because sometimes the captions are not censored and sometimes they are(when spoken language is not censored).

  11. Is it possible that the show will be shown on several different networks, times, or media, so they censor it because they expect the voice will be censored on later showings? For example, a show on HBO may not have any voice censoring because their channel is more liberal... then the same show is sold to NBC, which has to a have a certain child-friendly rating... the captions are not changed... so to be safe, they censor the captions from the beginning so that it won't be shown when the voices are censored?

    Does this make sense?

  12. Anonymous @ 7:50 p.m.

    That makes sense. I am wondering how they predict whether to censor or not censor and how much control they have over knowing ahead of time.

    But, what about for new shows such as 'Breaking Bad'?

  13. It would help if when this happens again that we have concrete examples and perhaps evidence (video tape recorded). I am curious about how often this happens.

  14. @(e .... On _every_ AMC show. One user, if you go to the link mentioned in the letter you'll see his post, has filed a formal complaint.

    @Anonymous - they couldn't predict if an over the air net will air repeats in 7-10 YEARS. If TNT, FX, USA picked up the rights, they won't censor. I've seen the words, all nikkid-like ☺ men and women (Nip/Tuck, Saving Grace, In Plain Sight, etc), on all three and I'm sure on others. Besides they censor words that have been on the Networks since before The Golden Girls.

  15. sign language is not captioning. A VERY large percentage of those late deafened, including me, don't know sign. I can't speak of numbers of those born, but my past research was for late deafened.

  16. Yes, in the "set up" area there are choices to turn on parental controls, in tv and in whichever device you are using to access tv. At least that is how it works on ours. I've not had any problem with "censoring". Now, for live shows, we get "odd" things now and then but not for taped tv or movies. We get everything through those. So look at your tv "set up" dvd player "set up" and any other devices you use.

  17. What?!?! You mean the nightly news lied a few years ago when they were talking about Senator New It Get Rich? ☺☻☺☻☺☻ I laugh at those gaffs.

  18. Xpressive Handz, it seems as if it happens frequently on certain networks. With some (Showtime, HBO, CBS, Bravo, etc.) I have had little to no problems. But, I have noticed excessive censorship with the captions with other networks such as AMC.

  19. It is probably a network problem then? I've not had this experience..yet. :-)

  20. HA!! Scott... It took me a moment to figure out it was Newt Gingrich. LOL!! Sometimes the Relay Agents come up with interesting typos in telephone conversations, too.

  21. I watched "Breaking Bad' on Demand last night. And holy s---, they excessively censored words deemed 'offensive' in the captions, while I could hear them say the words out loud. Some examples: H---, B----, G--, J----.

    Now, that ain't right.

    What I want to know is, what is their reason for censoring the captions, but not what is being said? Who makes this decision? The captioning company or the network?

  22. I have pictures and clips from 'Breaking Bad' showing how the captions are censored.

    I will post them here later.

  23. @(e - The captioning company President was contacted by the creator of the FB page. (clip & paste):

    Lidell Simpson:
    Although Mr. Troy has complained to AMC but at the same time, he does not want to bite the hand that feeds him since AMC is their biggest client. He personally rather have it fully captioned and really has no choice in the matter when it comes to business. It would seem that AMC have chosen to ignore this and continue to censor. This is the only cable network that censor captioning in such a manner where the words were NOT bleeped out. The have been doing this for the last 5 years and it not a technical violation of FCC regulations. 3 years ago I had taken this issue to Senator Thad Cochran that this needs to be addressed. I have followed up since. I would have to say, that drew a big fat zero. I will again contact Sen. Cochran to express my disappointment in its inaction and no response from the FCC in regard to the matter.

    If you have FB, got to that page and you'll find a transcript of a TDD call he made. Oh Brother. :-C

  24. I have filed a FCC complaint against AMC. I encourage everyone to go the www.fcc.gov and file online

  25. I filed an FCC complaint as well, as you see in my most recent posting.

  26. I also just filed ... filled out the form and everything, Since they gave me a FAX form I could fill out, I think I'll FAX my letter, too

  27. https://www.facebook.com/groups/amctvhatesdeaf

  28. I also filed an FCC complaint a couple of weeks ago.

  29. parental control for captioning? never heard of that. they are more likely block the show or channel all together than block captioning.

    if it is heard on tv, then it should be heard on cc. if it not heard on cc, then it shouldn't be heard on tv. sorry, but I don't fall for that excuse to censor captioning just in case they want to censor sounds.


Keep it civil.