WGBH News and Media Relations


January 19, 2017

Media Access Group at WGBH Boston to Provide Closed Captioning and Live Description for PBS Inaugural Coverage

Described version of coverage also will stream live on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) website: http://www.inaugural.senate.gov/


BOSTON, January 19, 2017 — The Media Access Group at WGBH, a service of Boston public media producer WGBH, will provide both closed captioning and live description of President-elect Donald J. Trump’s inauguration for PBS NewsHour Inauguration 2017: A Special Report. The PBS coverage of the inauguration airs live on Friday, January 20 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m EST.

While live captioning is an established feature of many television broadcasts, live description — the creation at time of air of a narration track imparting information about visual elements that people who are blind or visually impaired would miss — is a rare service. In 1993, WGBH provided the service for PBS's coverage of the Clinton inauguration, making it the first live television program that was made fully accessible to the nation's 36 million deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and visually impaired viewers. This year the description service for this broadcast is being sponsored by the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee.

"WGBH is proud to take part in making this historic event fully accessible to all PBS viewers through live closed captioning and video description," says Alison Godburn, Senior Director of the Media Access Group at WGBH. "And we're extremely grateful to PBS, the team at NewsHour Productions and to the sponsor of the live description for the opportunity to bring not only the audio of the inaugural coverage to deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans, but also the visual highlights of the occasion to those who are blind or visually impaired."

While details from the inaugural planning committee are still forthcoming, PBS plans to include coverage of the presidential inauguration procession, the speech and the swearing-in.

The special broadcast will be anchored by NewsHour managing editor Judy Woodruff, with NewsHour correspondents John Yang reporting from the steps of the United States Capitol and Lisa Desjardins from the National Mall. Joining Woodruff in studio will be a panel of guests including The New York Times columnist David Brooks; syndicated columnist Mark Shields; The Cook Political Reports Amy Walter; PBS NewsHour Weekend special correspondent Jeff Greenfield; chair of the American Conservative Union Matt Schlapp; interim director of The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management Lara Brown; and senior advisor and national spokesperson for @MoveOn Karine Jean-Pierre. 

Closed captions display spoken dialogue as text on the television screen. The live captions will be typed by specially trained stenocaptioners — working from WGBH’s Boston-based studios — and broadcast simultaneously with the live program. The descriptive narration — provided by an expert team of describers — will be audible during pauses in program dialogue and will identify speakers, describe settings and convey other visual information about the event. The described coverage will also be streamed live on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) website at http://www.inaugural.senate.gov/.

For more than 44 years, public broadcaster WGBH has been a pioneer in developing methods and solutions to make media accessible to people with disabilities. The team has decades of technical production experience in both traditional and emerging media. From creation of captions and video descriptions to research and development pursuits that connect with television, cinema, government, educational institutions, museums, national parks and industry, WGBH is committed to serving disability communities at both the leadership and grassroots levels.

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web. Television channels include WGBH 2, WGBX 44, and the digital channels World and Create. WGBH Radio serves listeners across New England with 89.7 WGBH, Boston’s Local NPR®; 99.5 WCRB; and WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR® Station. Find more information at www.wgbh.org.


WGBH Media Relations

Emily Balk

Catherine Burke