NCRA members represent captioners at captioning quality meeting

JCRiconOn June 3, several NCRA members, along with NCRA Director of Government Relations Adam Finkel, participated in a caption quality meeting in Washington, D.C. The members were:

  • Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner from Portland, Ore., representing LNS Captioning
  • Darlene Parker, RPR, a broadcast captioner from Reston, Va., representing the National Captioning Institute
  • Phil Hyssong, CMRS, a firm owner from Lombard, Ill., representing Alternative Communications Services

In addition, Gerald Freda represented CaptionMax, Heather York and Bob Beyer represented VITAC, Jill Toschi represented the National Captioning Institute, and Quang Pho represented the Media Access Group at WGBH. Other attendees were advocates for the deaf and hard-of-hearing organizations and representatives from the cable and broadcast industry.

The meeting covered the steps that the programming industry and the captioning industry have taken to implement the FCC’s best practices and consumer impressions of caption quality since the best practices have been adopted for both live and prerecorded programming. The captioners pointed out that, in general, they have seen an increase in prep material and audio quality provided to the captioners. Also, in general, more stations have been complying with efforts to prerecord captions for prerecorded content, which allows for higher quality captions for the consumer in regards to placement and accuracy.

Members Jeanette Christian, RDR, CRR, CRC, from Topeka, Kan., and Deanna Baker, RMR, from Flagstaff, Ariz., provided CART captioning for the event.

NCRA petitions FCC on behalf of captioning providers

On Feb. 19, NCRA filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission requesting that the agency waive a best practice required in its current captioning rules that calls for a specific formula to be used to measure the accuracy of captions. NCRA filed the petition on behalf of Caption Max, the National Captioning Institute, VITAC, and WGBH, collectively known as Captioning Providers. NCRA and the Captioning Providers are requesting that the commission instead introduce a new best practice that would allow for individual captioning providers to develop and use their own formula when calculating captioning quality.

Read more.

FCC denies closed captioning exemptions

Both Deaf News Today and Broadcasting & Cable reported this week that the FCC has started dismissing petitions by program producers who want exceptions to the Commission’s new captioning rules. On June 2, the FCC told a group of 16 that they have 90 days to get closed captions on their video in accordance with the FCC’s rules.

Read more here and here.

Gary Robson gives captioning talk at TEDxBozeman

In March 2014, Gary Robson participated in TEDxBozeman with a talk posing the question: Does closed captioning still serve the deaf and hard-of-hearing audience for whom it was created? Robson is an expert on captioning and a writer; his published titles include Alternative Realtime Careers and The Closed Captioning Handbook. His wife, Kathy Robson, RPR, CRR, CBC, is an NCRA member. Robson explained how the technology was developed, the laws broadening accessibility, and the contrast between high accessibility and low quality. The FCC had established best practices for captioning quality shortly before the TEDx event, so Robson’s talk focused on the four elements in the FCC’s ruling: accuracy, synchronization, completeness, and placement.

An article by Robson about his talk and the latest on information about captioning legislation is featured in the June issue of the JCR. The video is also posted to the TEDx website.

FCC releases captioning quality standards

On Feb. 20, the FCC issued its final report and order related to the captioning quality notice of proposed rulemaking, an order that had been open for approximately a decade.  In lieu of strict metrics to measure captioning quality, the FCC opted to issue best practices which captioners, captioning vendors, content creators, and video distributors are encouraged to follow.

Over the summer, NCRA finalized best practices for individual captioners and captioning vendors that helped shape the eventual best practices that were adopted. The FCC eventually implemented best practices submitted by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Motion Picture Association of America, and a coalition of four captioning vendors (WGBH, NCI, VITAC, and CaptionMax). The final report and order will be implemented on Jan. 15, 2015, providing ample opportunity to ensure that captioners and captioning vendors comply with the best practices.

Captioning quality will now be measured via four non-qualitative measures:

  • Accuracy – the captions “accurately reflect what is in the program’s audio track by matching the dialogue, music, and sounds, and identify the speakers”;
  • Synchronicity – the captions “are delivered synchronously with the corresponding dialogue and other sounds at a speed that can be read by viewers”;
  • Completeness – the captions “are complete for the entire program”;
  • Placement of the captions – the captions “do not obscure important on-screen information and are not obscured by other information on the screen.”

There are different best practices and standards related to live programming, near-live programming (defined as being created within 24 hours of the broadcast date), and pre-recorded programming. (See below for the best practices related to captioners and captioning vendors.)

At this point, the FCC did not expand the number of media markets that need to be captioned by a live, realtime captioner beyond the top 25. They did accept best practices submitted by NAB related to the use of Electronic Newsroom Technique in media markets below the top 25. If followed, these best practices will be able to give the consumer a more complete captioning experience than they currently have. However, the FCC is only giving broadcasters three months to comply with this order and is asking for a report one year from that time in May 2015.

NCRA played a major role in urging the FCC to adopt a best practices model that focused on quality of output rather than an inaccuracy rate defined by metrics. Significantly, the FCC does not have direct authority over captioners and captioning vendors like they do over content creators and video distributors, which means that enforcement action cannot be directly levied against captioners and captioning vendors by the FCC. Obviously, content creators and video distributors now have an incentive to use captioners and captioning vendors who abide by the best practices, so NCRA encourages all of our members to follow them.

Essentially, this report and order means that captioners and captioning vendors will be encouraged to follow the FCC’s best practices so specific captioning errors can be minimized. NCRA is hopeful that broadcasters and content creators following best practices will allow the captions to reach the end-user and not be subject to technical mistakes and errors. If you have any questions, contact Adam Finkel, NCRA’s Assistant Director of Government Relations, at afinkel@ncra.org.

The specific best practices related to captioning vendors, individual captioners, and those who caption offline for pre-recorded programming, which begin at section 61 on page 39 of the full report, can be found here.

NCRA representatives to speak at the Hearing Loss Association of America’s annual convention

NCRA’s Captioning Community of Interest Chair Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, and NCRA Assistant Director, Government Relations Adam Finkel have been selected to speak at the Hearing Loss Association of America’s Annual Convention being held from June 26 – 29 in Austin, Texas. They will be speaking on NCRA’s captioning quality best practices and NCRA’s Captioning Matters campaign. NCRA has worked with HLAA for many years through a strategic alliance in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Alliance.

NCRA works with FCC on captioning quality

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, NCRA executive director & CEO Jim Cudahy, CAE, NCRA assistant director of government relations Adam Finkel, government relations specialist Brandon Schall, PLC, and outside legislative counsel Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC, met with several officials at the Federal Communications Commission to discuss upcoming regulations related to captioning quality. NCRA’s captioning community of interest developed a list of best practices that have been vetted by many broadcast captioners, captioning companies, and key alliances in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. NCRA is hopeful that final regulations will be implemented in early 2014.

NCRA recently launched CaptioningMatters.org, a website that offers useful information for consumers of all captioning services, as well as the content creators, content providers, and all other individuals, companies, and organizations. The website also provides NCRA’s draft best practices on how to provide quality captions for television viewers. It will also provide the latest information related to captioning, including news, regulatory updates, legislative updates, videos, and other content of interest.

The website was built as part of a campaign to create greater recognition of the importance of quality captioning.  The campaign will seek to impart the numerous benefits of captions, such as raising reading levels for schoolchildren and aiding individuals who are learning English as a second language.

Please contact NCRA assistant director of government relations Adam Finkel if you have any questions.

NCRA launches “Captioning Matters” campaign

National Court Reporters Association has launched a new campaign to increase awareness of captions and advocate for the increased need for accurate, understand­able, and timely captions. “Captioning Matters” will begin as a branded, online advocacy campaign and resource center and is expected to grow over time. The campaign will explain how captions em­power the American public in addition to explaining the many parties who are involved in providing captions, from the content creator to the captioner to the broadcaster.

The website, CaptioningMatters.com, will be housed independently of NCRA’s own website and will be built to provide information for consumers. It will also serve as a clearinghouse of the latest in­formation related to captioning, including news, regulatory updates, legislative up­dates, videos, and other content of inter­est. In addition, NCRA’s captioning best practices, which were drafted by the Cap­tioning Quality Standards Subcommittee in 2013, will be prominently featured on the site to offer both those responsible for generating captions and those who use captions a source for discussion.

The Captioning Matters campaign will serve as a resource for people with hearing impairments as well as those people involved in providing captions. Further, the campaign will seek to impart the numerous benefits of captions, such as raising reading levels for schoolchil­dren and aid individuals who are learning English as a second language. In addition, the campaign will seek to educate relevant parties on a number of other aspects of captioning, as follows.

ENCOURAGE ADOPTION OF BEST PRACTICES

As a core part of the campaign, NCRA will seek to build relationships through the Captioning Matters campaign as a way to encourage broadcasters and other service providers, as well as appropriate and relevant interest groups, to support quality captioning. When television sta­tions, community organizations, and so on agree to provide captioning according to NCRA’s best practices, they will be des­ignated a supporter of Captioning Mat­ters and will be entitled to logos and other insignia that indicate their support of the Captioning Matters movement.

EMPOWER CONSUMERS WHO NEED CAPTIONING

Captioning Matters will also provide ac­cess to advocacy tools that can be lever­aged by captioning consumers to contact broadcasters, cable companies, and other key players to encourage them to sign onto the Captioning Matters campaign. As one example, we will provide template letters that consumers can use to request caption­ing of their local television stations, com­munity organizations, and elected officials.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

With Captioning Matters, NCRA will cre­ate an online resource center in which interested parties, including members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, can find information about captioning services, contact outlets to request ser­vices, stay informed about regulatory and legislative updates, and access best prac­tices to help ensure proper captioning is made available when needed. Users seek­ing a captioner or CART provider will be directed to the NCRA online Sourcebook, thus promoting the use of skilled NCRA members.

AWARENESS

Captioning Matters will put a face on the real people who benefit from captioning services through the use of profiles; these photo profiles are likely to include the el­derly, non-English speaking citizens, chil­dren, students, and others. The profiles will tell personal stories and explain vari­ous needs for captioning services.

For additional information or to provide information for the website, visit CaptioningMatters.com.

NCRA Convention & Expo: Conference Sessions

Seminar_AttendeesEDUCATION OF GREAT IMPORTANCE TO COURT REPORTERS

For many reporters, NCRA’s Convention & Expo is not only a great way to catch up with colleagues but the premier opportunity to learn new skills and track emerging trends in the profession. Attendees at this year’s event experienced a jam-packed educational schedule that not only covered a wide range of topics but also delivered the information in various styles and with best-in-class presenters. In addition to the sessions highlighted below, convention attendees also had the opportunity to learn about Cloud storage, wireless set-ups, punctuation, stadium captioning, and much more.

THE INTERNET IS A CAPTIONER’S BEST FRIEND

Attendees explored the value of the Internet and how best to leverage its unlimited resources at this interactive session led by seasoned court reporter, captioner, and CART provider Alan Peacock from Mobile, Ala. Participants were encouraged to join the conversation and tweet their ideas before, during, and after the session, as they explored the endless search sites available online, including YouTube, news sites, and specialized sites that can accurately identify an unfamiliar term, song lyrics, and even the correct pronunciation of the name of a public figure such as a politician or an athlete. Attendees also learned how to setup a wireless hotspot to ensure quick access to the Internet no matter where they’re working.

A FUTURIST LOOKS AT THE FREELANCER

Changes in economic conditions, the advancement of technology, and evolving trends that are often viewed as threats just as often lead to opportunities, according to Adam D. Miller, RPR, CRI, CLVS, a freelance court reporter who has worked for a decade in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. In his presentation, “A Futurist Looks at the Freelancer,” Miller provided several examples of changing times once perceived as threats, such as the launch of the Internet, that have ultimately created opportunities for the court reporting profession. Once feared, the Internet is now relied on instead of a telephone book, a dictionary, and other once-popular resources. In addition, the Internet has led to court reporters being able to stream live video and audio and conduct deposition work where parties are no longer required to be in the same location. A current threat to the court reporting profession is the declining number of public sector jobs, warned Miller. But he advised attendees to seize the opportunity in the threat and work to identify new areas to which they can bring their unique skills as freelance reporters.

SEARCH DOGS

SearchDogs

What does a court reporter have in common with a search dog? “A nose for truth, acute hearing, and swift paws. No bones about it,” said Chris Bergquist of the Sacramento Fire Department. The Search Dog Foundation, based in southern California, takes in difficult-to-place stray dogs and trains them to find live human survivors of catastrophic events. During their presentation, search dogs Elvis and Kari demonstrated some of their techniques by finding a child hidden in a tube and climbing along difficult surfaces. “They know it’s real life; they know it’s serious. The dog will not quit,” said Elvis’ handler, Chet Clark of the Oklahoma Task Force 1 team. The search dogs provided the demonstration at NCRA’s convention in honor of Atlanta court reporter Julie Brandau, who was shot and killed in her own courtroom. In her memory, the Julie Brandau Community Service Memorial Project partnered with the Search Dog Foundation because of Julie’s life-long love of dogs. To date, the project has raised more than $80,000 for the Search Dog Foundation.

TEACHING AND MENTORING: THE KEYS TO THE FUTURE OF THE PROFESSION

A panel of educators and NCRA board members led a lively discussion of how individual court reporters can do their part to help attract, retain, and train court reporting students to ensure the profession remains healthy and viable. Nativa P. Wood, RDR, CMRS, an NCRA board member and official court reporter with the Dauphin County Court of Common Please, Harrisburg, Pa., provided an overview of the work of NCRA’s Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force. Its goal is to help invigorate and promote the court reporting profession. In addition, NCRA Vice President Glyn Poage, RDR, CRR, a court reporter from Helotes, Texas, noted that court reporting students view working court reporters as walking success stories and offered a number of suggestions on how NCRA members can better support court reporting schools and students. Also on the panel were Kay Moody, CRI, MCRI, CPE, director of education for the College of Court Reporting, who offered insights into recruiting and training tomorrow’s court reporting professionals, and Jeff Moody, CRI, president of the College of Court Reporting, who explained the certification process at the state and national levels, as well as NCRA certifications.

BRINGING CART TO YOUR COMMUNITY

With the help of local closed captioner and CART provider Karyn D. Menck, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, the Hearing Loss Association of America Nashville Chapter has successfully brought CART and captioning technology to a variety of community sites including live theater, leisure and recreational activities, educational events, and religious venues. Menck, owner of Nashville-based Tennessee Captioning, and Kate Driskill Kanies, president of the HLAA Nashville Chapter and state coordinator for Tennessee, shared their experiences with an ongoing promotion of captioning services, as well as tips on how to launch a similar effort at the local level. The speakers also explored with attendees how to obtain grant funding for equipment and software to provide the services, and how to create a successful blueprint that will lead local venues to collaborate with captioners and CART providers on a onetime, free trial basis, to help determine if such services are needed.

SECURING THE COURT: SAFETY TIPS FOR OFFICIAL COURT REPORTERS

In recent years, the U.S. Marshals Service has seen an increase in violence in courthouses. In a presentation designed to educate court reporters and members of the court family about safety and security, John Shell, senior inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service, provided attendees with valuable tips and best security practices, such as coping in an active shooter situation, recognizing an active shooter in the vicinity, and following evacuation plans. In addition, Shell gave his insights into best practices for responding to law officials when they arrive at a the scene of a shooting, training tips for keeping staff safe in violent situations, and precautions to take to help to prevent violent crime from happening in a courthouse.

BEST PRACTICES FOR CAPTIONING QUALITY

An interactive panel that included Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, Amy Bowlen, RDR, CRR, CBC, Darlene Parker, RPR, and NCRA’s Assistant Director of Government Relations Adam Finkel led a discussion on the issues behind providing the captioning services that allow all individuals to have access to news broadcasts, sporting events, entertainment, and other television programming. Frequently cited was “Captioning Matters: Best Practices,” a working document that outlines NCRA proposals to ensure that broadcast captioners, captioning companies, and video programming distributors are providing the most accurate, understandable, and timely captions for the end user. The best practices project specifi cally covers live, realtime captions rather than captions created in the post-production phase of video production. Currently, postproduction captions are expected to be 100 percent accurate with no exceptions. However, for live realtime or near-realtime captions, 100 percent accuracy is not a reasonable expectation. According to the panel, in October 2010, the Federal Communications Commission found that 70 percent of all complaints regarding captioning involved transmission errors. Despite the need to address these errors and how they unfairly affect accuracy rates, the panel encouraged captioners to hold themselves accountable to provide the most complete, factual, and accurate captions possible.

BRIEFING ON THE FLY FOR FASTER WRITING

Kimi George, RMR, a freelance reporter specializing in medical malpractice depositions, and author of the book Flip Over Briefs, encouraged audience participation in a session that examined the differences between left brain and right brain and asked whether court reporters are more right or left brain dominated. George told attendees that she believes reporters use both sides of their brain because they use their critical thinking (left side of the brain) to determine that they need a brief, followed by their creative thinking (right side of the brain) to create a shorter outline or a brief. Some reporters are better at briefi ng than others, according to George, because they have successfully trained their brains to create new outlines quickly. Because the brain is a muscle, George told the audience that they too could enhance their skills by training their brains and offered tips and strategies for creating new outlines faster, including practicing consistency in briefs, making main briefs the same every time before adding endings, and keeping things simple. She also suggested leaving out vowels and provided additional tips for writing medial briefs.

Featured seminars from the NCRA 2013 Convention & Expo in Nashville are available at NCRA.org/eseminars. Search in the “2013 Convention Nashville” category for more information.