New Mexico and Indiana: Bills to Require Captions on All Public TVs Fail

According to Stephen Frazier of Loop New Mexico, the legislation that would have required “captions always on” on public TVs (HB 288) failed to get placed on the agenda for the Senate before this year’s short session of the legislature adjourned. The bill had gotten “do pass” recommendations by two House committees and then by the full house. The bill was an initiative of the Committee for Communication Access In New Mexico (CCAnm) and was patterned after that group's ordinances that were previously passed by the city councils of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. As with the two ordinances, if the bill had passed and been signed into law, it called for statutory fines of up to $250 for a first offense and $500 for each subsequent offense.

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Similar legislation was introduced in the Indiana legislature, sponsored by the Committee for Communication Access in Indiana (CCAI). This bill also did not get out of committee.

In both states, it is planned to try again when the legislatures meet in 2024, according to Frazier. A group in California is reportedly also working on a similar piece of legislation. He reports "Captions Always On" laws have successfully been passed in a number of cities that include Boston, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. Captioning advocates are following the lead of Washington and Maryland in adopting such a statewide regulation.  

Though thought of as primarily benefiting the 48 million hard-of-hearing and deaf people in this country, captions have also been found to be beneficial for second language learners and even to people with normal hearing in extremely noisy environments such as sports bars and gyms. They also help all people watching the TV in environments where it must be quiet such as medical waiting rooms. Closed captioning makes TV programs, whether news coverage of an emergency or a network drama, more accessible for all those groups.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that captions be turned on in public venues when requested, but because of inadequate enforcement procedures, it is routinely violated. State laws, like the proposed one in New Mexico, change the requirement to be “captions on” whenever the TV is turned on and is viewable to the public. Enforcement would be handled by an appropriate state agency. In the case of New Mexico, if the bill had passed and been signed into law, there are statutory fines of up to $250 for a first offense and $500 for each subsequent offense, with enforcement handled by the Attorney General's office.

For more information, visit Loop New Mexico.

Source: Loop New Mexico