No Closed Captioning Over HDMI

720. 1080. Interlaced. Progressive scan. HDMI.

If those terms are familiar, chances are you’ve been investigating the world of high definition video. High definition (or hi-def or simply HD) promises superior image quality through compatible components such as televisions, HD cable or satellite TV, Blu-ray DVDs, or the now-defunct HD DVD format.

Tonight I connected the cable box to the television via an HDMI cable. HDMI is the newest cabling alternative to coax, composite, S-video, and other formats. It took a few minutes of watching before I realized it, but it suddenly occurred to me that my TV was no longer displaying any closed captioning. I tried adjusting the settings. I tried another program. It just wasn’t there.

I did some quick Googling, and apparently the HDMI format doesn’t support closed captioning. Say what? The newest video format and the highest television resolution available can’t support something as basic as closed captioning?

I’m still doing some reading on the issue, but at best it appears that it MIGHT work. Depening on the tv, the cable/satellite box, and the signal provider, your mileage may vary. So far there seems to be no strong consensus on this issue other than frustration. Strangely enough, downgrading to a composite connection restores the closed captioning, but who wants to downgrade?

So what are the implications here? It sounds like most people who want the highest quality image will have to do without closed captioning. Anyone who is hearing impaired, anyone who wants to view foreign language content, anyone who just wants to keep from waking the baby can either do without closed captioning or use an inferior connection.

Interestingly, closed captioning is a separate issue from subtitles on high definition DVDs. Subtitles are encoded as part of the disc’s content while closed captioning is carried as part of the television broadcast signal. It seems that the Line 21 closed captioning standard simply isn’t supported by HDMI.

This issue is discussed on a number of forums. Click below for additional reading.