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CBS Sparks Outrage With Closed Captioning Message During Bad Bunny's Grammy Performance

The network failed to provide closed-captioning to translate during the Puerto Rican artist's performance and acceptance speech.

Bad Bunny
Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

Fans of rapper Bad Bunny were outraged over how CBS chose to handle closed captioning for Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny's performance and acceptance speech at last night's Grammy Awards ceremony.

Bad Bunny kicked off the broadcast with a medley of songs performed in Spanish. The closed captioning during his performance read just “SINGING IN NON-ENGLISH."

Fans and other viewers immediately decried the choice as racist, ableist and xenophobic.

Oscar winning actor Marlee Matlin was among those who criticized the choice.

The network also used closed captioning reading just “SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH" when Bad Bunny gave his acceptance speech for best Música Urbana Album for Un Verano Sin Ti both in Spanish and in English.

The network's failure sparked backlash online, including from one Twitter user who noted Bad Bunny "sings in Spanish in a country with millions of Spanish speakers" and it's both "ignorant" and "insulting" not to provide proper closed captioning.

According to Deadline, Grammy organizers and CBS are both culpable for not hiring a bilingual closed captioner.

Other acts' performances were transcribed onscreen and both parties knew about Bad Bunny's performance well ahead of time.

Sources told Deadline CBS planned to use Spanish-language captions on a West Coast replay of the Grammy Awards, which did not appease fans who noted Bad Bunny was streamed more than singer Taylor Swift, according to recently released Spotify data.

CBS and Grammy organizers were harshly criticized for their error.

Closed captions were created for deaf and hard of hearing individuals to assist in comprehension.

They can also be used as a tool by those learning to read, learning to speak another language or in an environment where the audio is difficult to hear or is intentionally muted.

Captions can also be used by viewers who simply wish to read a transcript along with the program audio. The technology has been in use since the early 1970s and is regularly used on live television broadcasts.

The failure on the part of CBS to caption the performance properly also offers an example of ableism, which is defined as discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to be disabled.