Jamie Berke has an excellent article introducing Jonah Syndrome. I remember the movie, And your name is Jonah. It was broadcast in 1979 — still a few years before captions hit. Berke explains that the people behind the movie promoted it heavily in deaf communities yet the movie contained no captions.
Like I said, it was life before captions. However, she has a valid point. Foreign movie subtitles were around then. The producers should’ve used subtitles as an opportunity to connect with the deaf community and make the film widely available encouraging people to watch it without sound.
Last year, Law and Order: CI, had a great episode with Marlee Matlin. Yet, those of us in Dallas missed it due to bad weather (the weather reports took over). The station graciously reran the episode in the middle of the night (it sounds negative, but they are bound by broadcast rules and it was all they could do).
Speaking of weather, Dallas’ CBS affiliate abandons its deaf viewers whenever it has weather reports. An entire episode of The Amazing Race and Cold Case didn’t have captions. The network does something that prevents the captions from coming through. Yet, ABC and NBC don’t have this problem anymore. Since The Amazing Race currently has a deaf contestant, you could say it was bit by Jonah Syndrome.
Sometimes Jonah Syndrome hits well-meaning places. They provide an ASL interpreter, but no captions. Now, this is not a war of ASL vs. lipreading. Remember, many people classified as hard of hearing and deaf later in life didn’t learn ASL growing up. It’s true that it’s harder to learn a second language after you pass the age of 10. Almost everyone can benefit from captions including those who aren’t deaf.