The demand for this service continues to grow—almost 100,000 homes own decoders—but that's nothing compared to the potential audience of an estimated 16 million hearing-impaired people in the U.S. One problem is the cost of the box, about $200. Also, many people are reluctant to admit that they need such help.
For the networks the problem is sponsorship. Money is the only thing limiting the number of programs captioned. The Department of Education spends roughly $1.7 million to caption news programs. American Express donated $30,000 to caption the L.A. Olympics. Chrysler and ABC pick up the tab for Monday Night Football.
The man most responsible for ABC's dedication to closed captioning is Julius Barnatham, president of Broadcast Operations and Engineering. Barnatham helped launch captioning in the early '70s after company chairman Leonard Goldenson had urged the TV industry to use its technological know-how to help the handicapped. Since then he has been tirelessly trying to bring about increased network captioning so that one day the glass wall may indeed be shattered.