VITAC to hold captioning webinar

The Sports Video Group News posted an article on Sept. 12 about an upcoming webinar being hosted by VITAC about the benefits of captioning.

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Our entire community working together

By Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC

NCRA President Sue Terry

The Sinclair Broadcast Group has announced that it will begin using IBM Watson Captioning, a form of automatic speech recognition, for their local television news stations. NCRA feels strongly that this decision is not in the best interests of the end consumer, and we are working diligently to do all we can to protect consumers and educate broadcasters as to the importance of quality captioning provided by a stenographic captioner.

This decision has alarmed everyone in our profession, but it is also serving as a catalyst to bring our association of professionals together to assist our deaf and hard-of-hearing community. This isn’t just about captioners and the effect that such a decision has on our work. Court reporters and captioners are not resistant to using technology to improve our lives; in fact, we are on the cutting edge of technology and are using the best platforms available to efficiently provide accurate court records and captions.

This decision is about the consumers: the millions of people in the United States who use captioning to absorb vital information, information that will now become garbled, untimely, lacking speaker designations, and often unintelligible, in addition to omitting sound effects, laughter, and music. While automatic speech recognition is evolving, it cannot match the expertise and skill of a trained and certified captioner. The deaf and hard-of-hearing community should have nothing less than full participation in programming. Using automation to disseminate vital information to millions of Americans who rely on accuracy in captioning is not only irresponsible, in our opinion, but potentially dangerous to the end users of our product: quality captioning.

NCRA’s Government Relations Department Manager, Matthew Barusch, is working with our NCRA Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee to handle this new development. On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, we have full confidence in their work to address this, but we still need your help. Sign our petition urging Sinclair to change course. If you are in an area with a local Sinclair television news station that has transitioned to IBM Watson, watch the news and closely critique the captions. Enlist the help of your friends and family in doing the same. If you see the captioning is inaccurate, register your formal complaint with the FCC. With your help and our entire community working together, we can make a difference.

Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, is NCRA’s 2018-2019 President. She can be reached at president@ncra.org.

 

Statement from the NCRA CEO: Sinclair Broadcast Group

By Marcia Ferranto

NCRA exists to represent, protect, and advocate for the stenographic professions of court reporting and captioning. Here at NCRA, everything we do, everything we fight for, and the very reason we fight are founded by the core belief that stenography is the most effective and efficient means of capturing the spoken word, the best way of providing speech-to-text services in any forum, and the only way to satisfy the needs and protect the integrity of the institutions and consumers who rely on it. This belief has been borne out by the facts time and time again: Stenographic court reporting and captioning is faster, more accurate, and more dependable than artificial intelligence-based alternatives and other alternatives solely based on technology, and, in addition, it is largely preferred by the consumers of these services. Stenographic court reporting is the backbone of the American court system, and stenographic captioning is an invaluable accessibility service to people who are deaf or who have hearing loss.

Recently, Sinclair Broadcast Group has made public their decision to abandon the use of stenographic captions in favor of the cost-cutting measure of implementing the automatic speech recognition (ASR) platform using IBM Watson. This decision is likely to impact hundreds of local news stations and affect millions of captioning consumers and providers. In a message to the public, IBM claims that Watson makes live programming “more accessible to local viewers, including the Deaf community, senior citizens, and anyone experiencing hearing loss.” We strongly disagree with the decision to abandon the human element of captioning in favor of automation, which invariably produces subpar captioning and will negatively affect accessibility to local news for millions of Americans.

NCRA’s Government Relations Department and Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee, our own member-formed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) watchdog, are working hard to address this issue, to register our concerns with the FCC, and to implore them to uphold important captioning quality standards in light of this new transition to ASR captioning.

But the FCC needs to hear from you, too!

  1. Complain online here about subpar captions.
  2. Sign our petition and tell Sinclair you want live captioners.
  3. If you have evidence of captioning failures, photos or videos of terrible captioning, we want to see it. You can send them to Matt Barusch, NCRA’s Government Relations Manager.

With your help, together we can ensure that live programming utilizes the best captioning that can be offered: Captioning by a live, trained, and certified captioner.

Marcia Ferranto is CEO and Executive Director of the National Court Reporters Association. 

NCRA Committee addresses use of automatic speech recognition captioning

A new NCRA committee, the Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee, has recently been formed. Its charge is to monitor the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) actions and other actions that affect the closed captioning industry and to respond accordingly.  The committee met on Sept. 4, 2018, to address the automatic speech recognition (ASR) issue.

ASR has already infiltrated some local TV news markets.  Some of you may have heard that an entire station group plans to transition to an ASR system in the near future. The committee members don’t know yet how the deaf advocacy groups or the FCC will respond. The deaf advocacy groups have been made aware of the coming switch to ASR, and NCRA is sure they will keep a close eye on it and respond accordingly. The FCC’s stance on ASR-generated closed captioning is that, like any captioning, it must meet FCC accuracy requirements.

In the Committee’s observations thus far, if the conditions in the newscast are perfect — reasonable speed, people not talking over each other, routine news subject matter/terminology, lack of background noise, no singing, etc. — ASR captions can be good; but if there is background noise, singing, chanting, a fast-paced program with people speaking over each other, difficult terminology, etc., the captions can be unusable. In addition, ASR systems display erratic punctuation. One must watch a variety of programs for more than just a few minutes to observe the varied results of ASR. They can be all over the board.  About the only plus for ASR is it is verbatim — when it hears and correctly interprets what is being said.

The emergence of ASR obviously makes us feel uneasy. The best actions you can take are as follows: if you see subpar captions, automated or otherwise, notify the station and complain to the FCC. NCRA offers a set of instructions; be sure to include the station, program, time, and specific examples.

Please rest assured that NCRA is closely monitoring the ASR issue.  Please keep in mind that our best defense is for you to continue to produce top-quality captions for our viewers and to provide clients with excellent customer service. Don’t forget: No ASR system comes close to providing consistently accurate captions at the level that a human captioner can.

The Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee invites questions about this Committee and its status. Questions can be directed to mbarusch@ncra.org.

 

Dreaming of earning the CRC?

Realtime captioning is an in-demand skill for court reporters. Earning the Certified Realtime Captioner certification will allow those who possess it to present themselves as among the most elite and qualified captioners.

To earn a CRC, candidates must:

  • Take the CRC Workshop, which is now offered online as an on-demand e-seminar and can be taken anytime
  • Pass the CRC Skills Test (literary matter at 180 wpm) at 96 percent accuracy, which is offered online and can be taken anytime
  • Pass a 50-question CRC Written Knowledge Test, which can be taken at a Pearson VUE testing center in October (registration opens in September)

Throughout this process, CRC candidates will gain a solid foundation for understanding what it takes to be a captioner.

Interested? Registration for the online CRC Workshop, Skills Test, and Written Knowledge Test are currently open. More information is available online at NCRA.org/testing.

VITAC becomes pre-approved captioning vendor for California community colleges

Sports Video Group reported on Aug. 21 that VITAC is now a pre-approved vendor for the Distance Education Captioning and Transcription (DECT) grant for the California Community Colleges system.

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Realtime captioning aids founder of nonprofit for deaf youth in college classroom

The September issue of San Antonio Magazine features an article about two-time Miss San Antonio and founder of Aid the Silent, Emma Faye Rudkin, and how she has succeeded despite suffering a profound hearing loss.

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NCRA member earns grant to teach workshops

Kathy Cortopassi

NCRA member Kathy Cortopassi, RMR, CRR, a captioner, court reporter, and firm owner from Chester, S.C., recently received a $500 marketing grant from her local chamber of commerce, Small Business Development Center, and the local technical college. The grant will fund a series of workshops to introduce the public to the court reporting and captioning professions using the NCRA A to ZTM Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program.

Cortopassi’s firm, Voice to Print Captioning, was one of three local firms to win a $500 grant. To be eligible to apply for the funding, Cortopassi participated in a special series entitled “Strengthening Your Business Foundation,” a program created by the Small Business Development Center based at Winthrop University, York Technical College Chester Center, and the Chester County Chamber of Commerce. She and a number of other local business owners committed to attending evening classes that spanned five months and that covered topics such as market research, human resources best practices, marketing, accounting, and financing one’s business. The courses were taught by experts in their related fields. In addition to earning a certificate of completion of the course, participants that completed the series were able to apply for one of three grants offered.

Cortopassi cited in her grant application that there is a growing need for professionals in the court reporting and captioning fields and that she would use the grant money to help support workshops in the area to recruit potential students to the career.

“Through this grant, we can have a county-wide impact. I can create a buzz about the profession and the need for more professionals by using this money,” said Cortopassi, who was a court reporter for 10 years before becoming a captioner some 25 years ago. She re-entered the freelance court reporting field a year ago. Cortopassi said she became involved with the local chamber of commerce because it was a good way to meet people in the business community.

“I recently pitched the idea of offering court reporting and captioning workshops to the economic development director of our city, and he would very much like me to open a school. We plan to start with offering an NCRA A to Z Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program first,” she added.

Cortopassi said that her firm, Voice to Print Captioning, is partnering with Every Word, Inc., a South Carolina-based court reporting firm, to host a meet-and-greet event with prospective reporting students on Sept. 29 in Rock Hill, S.C. Part of the grant’s marketing funds will be used to attract students to the event so they can meet court reporters from around the state and ask questions about the profession and be encouraged to join the NCRA A to Z program.

In addition, Every Word’s reporters are being encouraged to bring the steno machines they no longer use to donate to the NCRA A to Z Program, Cortopassi noted.

For more information about the meet-and-greet or to donate an unused machine to the program, please contact Kathy Cortopassi at kathycort@voicetoprint.onmicrosoft.com or at 866-523-5359.

Captioning word of the month: .500

Steve Clark

Below is the fourth in a series of monthly featured words to help captioners build their dictionaries and knowledge. The words for this series are being provided by Steve Clark, CRC, a captioner from Washington, D.C. Clark captions for Home Team Captions and covers the Baltimore Ravens NFL team  and the Washington Nationals baseball team. Clark also co-chairs NCRA’s Broadcast and CART Captioning Committee.

Our term this month, .500, comes from practically every sport. While this is a pretty straightforward term and an easy definition, the added definition of 1.000 usually trips us up. The definition of 1.000 is included at the end.


.500

(baseball, NASCAR, basketball)

Definition

Having the same number in both one category and its opposite category; for example, having the same number of wins as losses.  A team that has won six games and lost six games has a .500 record.  A basketball player who has shot the ball four times and made two of those shots is shooting .500.

Usage     

“After a very shaky start, this team shows promise and is now playing .500 ball.”

“Rodriguez has been up to bat 10 times in his career against this pitcher, hitting the ball five times.  If you can hit .500 against this guy, you’re doing all right, I’d say.”

“Johnson has tried to pass Gordon on that outside lap twice and succeeded once.  You could say this racer is sitting at .500, I guess.”

1.000

This is heard quite often in baseball, as in “He’s batting 1.000.”  This is often spoken as “he’s batting a thousand.”  For clarity when captioning, I tend to write “he’s batting 1.000” even when spoken as “he’s batting a thousand.”   This is one of those terms that has become a part of our everyday jargon, meaning someone has been perfect at something.

LIBI, Plaza, and NYSCR are the key to lucrative court reporting careers

The Queens Daily Eagle posted an article on Aug. 6 about the growing need for court reporters and the court reporting program offered at the Long Island Business Institute Commack Campus.

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