These are text transcripts and audio environmental information encoded into MPEG2 HD OTA, DVD in region 1, MythTV recordings, EyeTV recordings, bttv, etc...
Nicer than a subtitle since it's already in text and can be easily indexed and searched through. For output there's several possiblities. Quicktime has an option to use a text track to hold these and allow users to turn the display on or off using iTunes, iPods and iPhones. Exporting to an SRT, SCC or other text format allows overlays in VLC and on some high def TVs.
Extra information being preserved from the source videos is always useful and deaf people especially would like to keep that information when converting from one format to another.
There's a lot of info on CC and sample code around such as ccextracter also on sourceforge.
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