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Part II: Choosing the Right Captioning Service

The second half of our interview with Carol Studenmund

Continuing from Part I of our interview with Carol Studenmund who is an owner of the captioning service, LNS Captioning, and Chair of the Mount Hood Cable Regulatory Commission in Oregon. Next, Carol has advice for PEG channel operators for choosing the right captioning service as well as some further discussion on new developments in the captioning world.

Government Video: What are your thoughts on the recently released FCC proposal to expand video description rules for the blind and visually impaired?

Carol Studenmund

Carol Studenmund: I look forward to seeing how this rolls out over time. The population of people with visual disabilities is much smaller than those with hearing disabilities, which is why service to people with hearing disabilities is much more mature at this time. As our population grows older across the board, visual disabilities will find more support.

GV: As the industry looks to the upcoming NAB shows, what new technologies or trends are you looking at?

Carol: At the convention this year, I will be talking to clients and technology vendors about delivering captions over the internet. Digital telephone lines compress caption data into unreadable form. Captions need to be delivered either over POTS lines or an IP address. And we all know how rare POTS are becoming. In 2015, one of our network affiliate clients switched to IP delivery of captions. We saw an 80% reduction in reports of dropped phone lines during news programs for this client with the IP delivery. I hope to convince more of our clients to move to IP delivery this year.

And consumers want to have captions available in all settings, not just on TV or over the internet. Our company provides captions in courtrooms across our geographically large state of Oregon, where it can be very difficult and very expensive to have a captioner on site for a one-hour hearing eight hours by car from Portland or Eugene. We are always on the lookout for new ways to deliver captions and receive the clear audio needed to provide excellent captions.

GV: What questions do you suggest that PEG operators ask when they are looking at captioning companies and/or technology?

Carol: The two issues that come to mind – besides experience and cost – are the size of the operation and the ability to demonstrate a history of quality captions. It is a rare city council that can promise us their meetings only last one hour or 90 minutes. It can be a challenge to schedule captioners for meetings that don’t want to stop. Make sure the vendor you hire has the capacity to keep up with your schedule. You don’t want a one-person company who thinks they can cover anything and everything for you. We have not infrequent requests from small companies to bail them out of meetings going long and captioners getting too tired to keep going.

Ask your potential vendors to tell you about their quality control process. What is their annual accuracy rate and how can they back that up? The answers to those questions will tell you good information about that company’s performance record.

Q:Are there any other key issues – from technology to the captioning process to cost – that you think PEG operators ought to be aware of?

Carol: In November 2015, the FCC held a roundtable workshopabout PEG programming and captioning. At that workshop, PEG providers requested the FCC allow capital funds to be used to pay for captioning services. We are awaiting a response from the FCC on this request at this time.

The many PEG providers I have met and worked with across the country are very proud of the access to government and education they bring to their communities, and for good reason. Don’t forget the existence of that large group of people with hearing disabilities. They need access, also, and the laws are on their side. When your community receives a request for captioning, take it as an opportunity to bring a very valuable service to all of your viewers.