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Is it necessary to fine bars if closed captioning isn’t on TVs?

(File photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

It’s probably not something one would imagine requires a law, but that never appears to stop the Seattle City Council. A new law will now insist that restaurants, bars, gyms, and pretty much any business with a television use closed captioning on the screen.

KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney can’t imagine why anyone would have a problem with this.

“We’re accommodating a minority of people, and it doesn’t hurt the majority of people, so why not?” he said.

But co-host John Curley can.

“It’s unnecessary, that’s why. If you’re a deaf person and you’re in that bar, and you say to the person, ‘Hey, can you turn it on? I can’t hear.’ The person turns it on,” he said.

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“You lose the ability of two individuals to communicate and solve things on their own, as opposed to the government starting to fine people for behavior that we would just have solve naturally for each other.”

The law is meant to help those who are deaf or hard of hearing, the elderly, those for whom English is a second language, and people with learning disabilities and attention deficits, reports the Seattle Times. Current laws already require businesses to turn on captions if someone asks, but makes it illegal even if they don’t to begin with.

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“It’s important to shift the onus from having to request closed captions as a public accommodation to instead create the expectation that folks have it in advance,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold in a statement.

The city won’t begin enforcing this for six months, but when they do, businesses found breaking the law will first get a stern but polite letter, followed by a potential fine of $125, and then a fine of up to $300 if they do it again. Surely laws for television brightness and contrast are next.

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