WGBH News and Media Relations


December 18, 2015

WGBH Accessibility Center Shares in Technical Emmy Award

Contributes to Captioning Standard for Online Videos

Boston, Mass (December 18, 2015) – Boston public media producer WGBH, which originated captioning for television in the 1970s, is part of the team to receive an Emmy Award for creating a standard for delivering closed captions on the internet.

            The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) is awarding the technical Emmy for “Standardization and Pioneering Development of Non-Live Broadband Captioning.”

            Geoff Freed, director of technology projects and Web media standards with The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH, which works to expand access to media for people with disabilities, notes that 15 years ago there were multiple proprietary methods being used to distribute and display captions with videos on the internet.  He wanted to streamline the process so that producers did not have to create separate caption formats for each different online video player.

            Freed and other media representatives approached the W3C -- the World Wide Web Consortium, an international community of organizations, staff and the general public who work together to develop web standards – and proposed that they create a non-proprietary caption display standard that anyone who publishes video online could use. The WC3 agreed to form a working group to create a new, open specification.

            The result of almost eight years of work was TTML (Timed Text Markup Language) which is now used by major online video distributors to deliver closed captions to viewers, is supported by YouTube and Internet Explorer, and forms the basis for the SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) caption format, SMPTE-TT, which is named by the FCC as a "safe-harbor" method of distributing captions over the internet.

            “Continually refining caption systems to make them accessible for users and efficient for producers is part of the mission of NCAM and WGBH,” says NCAM Director Donna Danielewski.” “It is exciting to have Geoff’s contributions to this effort recognized by NATAS. We are honored to be part of the team receiving this award.”

            The award will be presented as part of the 67th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards on January 8 during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.


About The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) 

The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at Boston public broadcaster WGBH is a research and development facility dedicated to addressing barriers to media and emerging technologies for people with disabilities in their homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. NCAM is part of the Media Access Group at WGBH which includes two production units, The Caption Center (est. 1972) and Descriptive Video Service® (DVS®) (est. 1990). 

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Arthur, Curious George and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH also is a major supplier of programming for public radio, and oversees Public Radio International (PRI). As a leader in educational multimedia for the classroom, WGBH supplies content to PBS LearningMedia, a national broadband service for teachers and students. WGBH also is a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to those with hearing or visual impairments. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors. More info at www.wgbh.org.


WGBH Media Relations

Emily Balk

Catherine Burke