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Closed Captioned Radio
Oregon's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (ODHHS)-Technical Assistance Center
ODHHS Information and Technical Assistance Series

Closed Captioned Radio
(Source: Gary Robson, Cheetah Systems)
Television captioning has come a long way in the last ten years, and the FCC´s latest ruling (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 97-4, issued January 9th) takes it even farther, creating a phase-in schedule building up to all new television programming being captioned.
In all of this, however, radio seems to have been forgotten. The technology exists to deliver captioned radio, however. The delivery mechanism for the captions? The Internet.
Let´s take a step back for a moment and look at how realtime captions are delivered on television. We´ll use a newscast as an example. As the newscasters speak, their words are transmitted on the TV signal. A stenocaptioner, listening to that TV broadcast, writes every word using a shorthand machine. Good stenocaptioners can achieve accuracy well in excess of 99% at speeds of 250 words per minute.
As the stenocaptioner writes, the shorthand is sent to a computer, which translates it into English (at least in the U.S.). That English text is then formatted and sent via telephone modem back to the TV station, where it is encoded and "hidden" on the television signal. When you watch the program, your caption decoder or TV extracts the closed- captioning information and turns it into visible subtitling.
How Radio Captioning Works
The process for captioning a radio broadcast is similar. In fact, it works for just about any type of live event. The audio signal is sent to the Internet broadcasting company using standard telephone lines. The Internet broadcaster sends the audio over the Internet and also sends it to a stenocaptioner. The stenocaptioner uses the same equipment used for television captioning, and sends the English text back to the Internet broadcaster. There, the text is sent to a computer system which is connected to a World-Wide Web server on the Internet.
At home, when you wish to connect to this broadcast, you dial up the Internet and run a standard Web Browser program such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. You direct that program to the Internet broadcaster´s site, and connect to the radio program you want.
A computer program then starts up and delivers the text to you, just like caption text on television. Hearing people can also listen to the audio of the program, so the family can tune in to a radio program together. Higher-budget events can include graphics, audience feedback (by typing in questions) and even video. Since you are using the Internet, you are not limited to the broadcast area of the station – you can live in Florida and pick up a talk show from Oregon!
How do I get my favorite show captioned?
Although the technology has been around for two years, radio stations are slow to use it. The main reason is money. Captioning a radio show can cost anywhere from $200 per hour on up. The radio station won´t broadcast the show with captions unless they get sponsors or they believe they can dramatically increase their audience.
Your best bet if you want a show captioned is to explain to the radio station or the host (if the show is syndicated) what you want. See the "resources" at the end of the article for more information.
Great inroads have been made in making television programming more accessible. Now it´s time to broaden our focus, and work on the rest of the world, too!
Cheetah Broadcasting: www.cheetahcast.com or 510/656-0700 (voice/tty). This company is doing captioned Internet broadcasts now, and created much of the technology.
The FCC: For more information about the FCC ruling mentioned in the article, visit their Web site at www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Cable/News_Releases/1997/nrcb7002.txt