Senators attack closed-captioning subsidies for ‘Springer’

Wednesday, March 4, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) — Deaf people have the same right as those who hear to enjoy The Jerry Springer Show, the U.S. Education Department said recently in defending its subsidies for closed captioning of the raucous talk show.

Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., asked Education Secretary Richard Riley in a letter March 3 to revoke the grant for Springer's show, which on occasion has featured female impersonators and adults who have sex with teen-agers as guests.

The show “may titillate and humiliate, but short of the window it provides on the depths to which our culture has sunk, we challenge anyone to demonstrate how it may legitimately 'educate' the general public,” Coats and Lieberman said in their letter.

Education Department spokeswoman Julie Green said the 30-year-old grant program provides money for about 40 percent of all closed captioning.

But Green said the three organizations receiving the $8 million to $9 million a year in grants pick which shows are to be closed-captioned, not the government. Programs using grant-funded closed captioning run the gamut and include such programs as ABC's Wide World of Sports, CNN, Barney and Rosie O'Donnell Show.

The three groups—WGBH in Boston, the National Captioning Institute and Vitec—use the grant. The National Captioning Institute provides closed-captioning for Springer.

“It is not the department's role to censor the programming that is available to the general population by denying that access to the population that is hearing impaired,” Green said.

Linda Shafran, spokeswoman for Springer, agreed.

“We actually take the same stance that the Education Department does,” Shafran said. “Deaf people have the same right as anyone to hear and enjoy The Jerry Springer Show. We don't discriminate.”

—First Amendment Center staff contributed to this report.