NCRA re-appointed as representative on FCC Committee

Photo by Greg Elin

Photo by Greg Elin

NCRA has been named to serve a two-year term as a representative member on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Disability Advisory Committee (DAC). The appointment was announced Jan. 5 and marks the second time NCRA has been named as a representative.

NCRA joins nearly two dozen other parties representing a number of companies, nonprofit organizations, and individual consumers serving on DAC’s Technology Transitions and Access to Video Programing subcommittees.

The FCC established the DAC in December 2014 to provide advice and recommendations to the Commission on a wide array of disability issues within its jurisdiction. The DAC is slated to remain active for two years, with meetings of the full committee and four subcommittees to begin next week.

According to the FCC, the DAC provides a means for stakeholders with interests in accessibility issues to exchange ideas, facilitate the participation of consumers with disabilities in proceedings before the Commission, and assist the Commission in educating the greater disability community and American with Disabilities Act-covered entities on disability-related matters. The Committee is expected to keep the Commission apprised of current and evolving communications issues for persons with disabilities. Other subcommittees include Communications, Emergency Communications, and Relay/Equipment Distribution.

Matthew R. Barusch, NCRA’s Manager of State Government Relations, who will represent the Association, said the Access to Video Programming Subcommittee will address televised emergency information, closed captioning, video description, and equipment designed to receive, play back, or record video programming.

“Serving on the second chartered DAC is consistent with NCRA’s appointment on the first charted DAC. This appointment allows NCRA to continue to have a voice in FCC recommendations related to captioning and how it will meet the needs of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community,” Barusch said.

The first meeting of DAC’s new term is tentatively set for March 21 at the FCC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Additional tentative meeting dates include mid-June and mid-October.

The 2016 election: How the results will affect the profession

Photo by Vox Efx

Photo by Vox Efx

By Matthew Barusch

At long last, this election is over. The American people have cast their ballots, and perhaps the most unique and consequential presidential campaign in recent history has reached its conclusion. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been elected as the 45th President of the United States. President-elect Trump will now prepare to govern with a fully Republican Congress, and for the first time since 2001, the Republican Party will have control of all three branches of government.

The effects of a Trump administration on the court reporting profession are relatively uncertain, partially because uncertainty surrounds his upcoming presidency. Trump will be expected to fulfill numerous promises he made during his campaign, including his policies on immigration, the economy, and foreign affairs. Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be able to target all of the Obama administration policies that the party has been fighting against for years, including the Affordable Care Act, executive orders on immigration, and energy restrictions on fossil fuels. The vacancy on the Supreme Court will also likely be filled within the first few months. Merrick Garland’s nomination is likely to be tossed aside after Trump’s inauguration in favor of a conservative judge off the list he circulated during his campaign.

With these issues as the primary focus going into Trump’s presidency, issue areas affecting the court reporting profession such as education will likely take a back seat. If and when education is taken up, it will potentially be viewed as an area for budget cuts, which may rule out any new appropriations for court reporting programs.

Trump has also spoken to his desire to make the country safer and improve the country’s infrastructure. A case could be made for the revival of the Local Courthouse Safety Act, particularly in a time where the country is focused on violent shootings and the public is uneasy. In past iterations, the proposed legislation would distribute existing surplus security equipment to local and state courthouses to enhance the security infrastructure of courthouses that lack them. Such legislation would speak to Trump’s campaign promises; however, it is likely that the focus of his administration and the 115th Congress will be on fulfilling his more high-profile pledges.

A broader look at the congressional elections shows that members of Congress who support the court reporting industry have been re-elected on both sides of the aisle in both chambers. In the Senate, Sen. Patty Murray has won re-election in Washington with 61 percent of the vote. Sen. Murray is likely to become Minority Conference Chair in the Senate and remain the ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which will give NCRA a powerful ally in the Senate minority. In the House, Reps. Hakeem Jeffries in New York, Rodney Davis and John Shimkus in Illinois, Suzan Delbene in Washington, Ron Kind in Wisconsin, and Dennis Ross in Florida all won re-election. As a result, NCRA retains a strong list of allies on important committees, such as the House Judiciary Committee, which are primarily responsible for addressing education issues of import to the profession. There are also some newcomers to Congress this cycle who are likely to support initiative affecting court reporting. One such person is Jimmy Panetta, who won election in California as Representative for the 20th Congressional District.

NCRA will continue to work for the court reporting profession with its allies in the 115th Congress and looks forward to a hopeful and prosperous future ahead.

Matthew Barusch is NCRA’s Manager of State Government Relations. He can be reached at mbarusch@ncra.org.

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 submits letter supporting freelance and official court reporters in Arizona

NCRA President Steve Zinone, RPR, submitted a letter on May 20 to the Arizona Supreme Court opposing the proposed petition to amend Rule 30. The letter also supports a previous petition made by the Arizona Court Reporters Association (ACRA). The letter clarified that, even though they are not all full-time employees of the court system, both freelance and official court reporters share the same technical qualifications as well as the same respect for the integrity of the record and the court reporters’ transcript should remain the official court record. The letter echoed ACRA’s suggestion to “implement regulations regarding the archiving and control of the record when the court reporter who is used is not employed by the court.”

Read more.

Online newspaper reprints NCRA advocacy article

An article authored by NCRA Director of Government Relations Adam Finkel, which appeared in the April issue of the JCR, was reprinted in the April 25 issue of AMERICOURT University Prose, an online newspaper that serves the legal community. Finkel’s article, “Legislative Update: The effectiveness of grassroots advocacy,” was reprinted under the politics section of the paper.

Read more.

NCRA submits comments to the FCC on qualified captioners

On March 15, Adam Finkel, NCRA Director of Government Relations, submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission in response to a report filed by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. NCRA’s comments corrected an assumption that there are not enough captioners to cover media markets outside of the top 25. Among other points, Finkel pointed out the availability of training (including NCRA’s new Certified Realtime Captioner certification) and that some captioners are unable to accept work despite being qualified due to the inconsistent transition between POTS lines and the IP lines. “Like the consumer groups and NAB, NCRA shares the goal of ensuring high-quality captioning,” Finkel stated in the comments.

Read more.

Space is filling fast for 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp

NCRA Legislative Boot Camp logoRegister now to join the leaders from more than 40 state affiliates from across the country who are participating in the 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp being held March 20-22 at the Hyatt Regency in Reston, Va. Space for the event, which is sponsored by NCRA’s government relations department, is limited.

Attendees will participate in sessions that include an introduction to politics, grassroots lobbying techniques, effectively communicating with the press, understanding NCRA’s 2016 federal initiatives, building lasting relationships, and what to expect when visiting lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The schedule also includes mock hearings and role-playing exercises, as well as tips on how to promote the profession to external audiences and consumer groups and how to successfully testify before legislators.

Tiva Wood, RDR, CMRS, NCRA President-Elect, a freelance reporter from Mechanicsburg, Pa., has attended the camp twice. “Participants in the NCRA Legislative Boot Camp leave this intensive and very informative event armed with the knowledge and confidence they need to work with their lawmakers to help ensure that issues with a potential impact on the court reporting and captioning professions are addressed swiftly and accurately and in the highest professional manner possible,” she said. “The mock trial and role-playing exercises are extremely beneficial as well for preparing participants for their visits to Capitol Hill.”

Lead presenters will include Adam Finkel, NCRA’s Director of Government Affairs, and Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC, from Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies.

The two-day training culminates with a trip to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., where attendees will have the opportunity to meet with their respective legislators and their professional staff members, and gain experience in lobbying. Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend an event with one of NCRA’s legislative supporters.

During visits with lawmakers, Boot Camp attendees will be encouraged to urge their representatives to reauthorize the Training for Realtime Writers grants under the Higher Education Act passed by Congress in 2009. The Act created a competitive grant program to train realtime writers to provide both captioned information and communication access for the 30 million Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing. Programs established with past grants also aided working reporters in learning and polishing realtime skills.

Registration for the 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp is available online at NCRA.org/bootcamp. The cost is $175 per attendee. For more information, contact Adam Finkel, NCRA Director of Government Relations, at afinkel@ncra.org.

 

Gear up for the NCRA Legislative Boot Camp

State affiliates gear up for 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp

State affiliates from across the country are making plans to participate in the 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp being held March 20-22 at the Hyatt Regency in Reston, Va. The event is sponsored by NCRA’s government relations department.

The schedule for this year’s event will include seminars on the political climate on a state and national level, as well as ways to promote the profession to external audiences and consumer groups. Attendees will also be trained how to testify before legislators, partake in rigorous roleplaying exercises, and receive an intensive overview of the current legislative and regulatory issues at hand. The two-day training culminates with a trip to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., where attendees will have the opportunity to walk through the building, meet with their respective legislators and their professional staff members, and gain experience in lobbying. Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend a political fundraiser for one of NCRA’s major supporters.

“The NCRA Legislative Boot Camp is one of the most important benefits of membership in the Association because it provides training in the skills needed to successfully advocate and participate in the legislative and regulatory processes when issues in either of those arenas arise that could hinder or help the future of the court reporting and captioning professions,” said NCRA President Stephen A. Zinone, RPR, an official court reporter from Pittsford, N.Y.

“If you are in the business of making the record and preserving history or providing valuable captioning services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, then you are in the business of protecting our profession,” said Zinone.

Online registration is now open for the 2016 Legislative Boot Camp at NCRA.org/bootcamp. The cost is $175 per attendee. For more information, contact Adam Finkel, NCRA Director of Government Relations, at afinkel@ncra.org.

‘Tis the season for giving back to the profession

The holiday season is the perfect time to support the mission of NCRA’s Political Action Committee and help ensure the future of the court reporting and captioning professions.

Since its establishment in 1981, the NCRA PAC works hard on behalf of members by supporting candidates for federal office who promote and advance court reporting and captioning.

The NCRA PAC also works to build relationships in Congress to advance the profession’s interests on a national level. Through the personal and financial investments of its members, the NCRA PAC provides an opportunity to more effectively petition lawmakers for the prosperity, promotion, and long-term success of the court reporting and captioning professions.

The NCRA PAC is important to the initiatives that the Association is pursuing on Capitol Hill. The PAC is the association’s and the members’ direct lifeline to the legislative community that will decide the outcome of NCRA’s initiatives in Congress. Having a presence on Capitol Hill is critical when working to promote the profession on the national level, and the NCRA PAC is an important vehicle through which the Association can deliver NCRA’s message to Congress for our 25,000 members.

Giving to the NCRA PAC is easy. Donors must be a U.S. citizen to contribute, use only a personal check or credit card, and be either a member of NCRA or the spouse of a member.  Individual contributors may donate up to $5,000 per year to NCRA’s PAC, while married couples each have separate contribution limits. For the complete set of giving guidelines and a contribution form, visit NCRA’s Government Relations page at NCRA.org.

NCRA represents captioners at FCC meeting

IMG_1114

Carol Studenmund and Heather York on the FCC panel

On Nov. 10, the Federal Communications Commission hosted a roundtable on closed captioning of PEG programming. PEG stands for public, educational, and governmental television channels. Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, a broadcast captioner and president of LNS Captioning in Portland, Ore., was in attendance representing the interests of broadcast captioners, along with Heather York, vice president of marketing at VITAC.

The roundtable discussion focused on captioning standards and best practices for PEG providers, as well as the importance of both quality captioning and captioners. Participants also discussed creative strategies to get local captioning covered by larger government entities. Many PEG stations cover public content such as city council meetings and operate on a smaller scale. Educational content, however, also needs to be captioned to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

IMG_1106

Carol Studenmund and Mary Beth Henry from the Office of Community Technology for the City of Portland

“It was an honor to represent NCRA at the FCC to talk about captioning for local government programming,” said Studenmund. “Providing access to government at all levels is a vital service for our community. All people, regardless of disabilities, deserve to be able to participate in their government affairs. Captioning helps make that happen for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.”

The agenda for the roundtable is available on the FCC website.