Closed-captioning is something of a mystery to many people. They are not sure how the words get on the screen during a television program, especially when it is a live event. Rest assured that closed-captioning is not a product of tiny magical elves hiding in the television. Rather, those words get onscreen via the hard work of talented broadcast captioning reporters. Called captioners, these professionals use a combination of special equipment and unique skills to create the onscreen text.
A Brief History of Broadcast Captioning
Over a decade and a half ago, Congress passed a law called the Telecommunications Act that required all new television programs to provide closed-captioning service for the hearing impaired. This is not a small group of people. Approximately 30 million Americans are deaf or have some amount of hearing loss. Not everyone can read lips or understand sign language. The government wanted to make sure this group of people could also enjoy watching television and get emergency information should a natural disaster or other catastrophe occur.
As a result of this law, all programs that come on television have the subtitles for the hearing impaired. The Coalition of Organization for Accessible Technology estimates that, today, over 100 million Americans use the service. That number includes the hearing impaired, new readers, new English speakers, and ordinary people watching television in noisy environments.
The government is currently changing the law to require that all programming on the Internet contain closed-captioning. This will create a number of new opportunities for broadcast captioners.
Why Work as a Closed Captioner
Broadcast caption reporters perform a much needed and much loved public service. Closed-captioning allows people who would otherwise be excluded to enjoy the same activities as their hearing family and friends and participate in the community. One of the first channels to be captioned was C-SPAN (Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network). Suddenly hearing impaired persons could understand what was going on in the government and had access to the activities of their local and district representatives.
This is a personally and financially rewarding career. In addition to providing access to the hearing impaired, broadcast captioners also helps people learning the English language and how to read for the first time. These people read the words on the screen which helps improve their understanding of the language. This profession is for people who like to help other people, and the money is pretty good too. If this sounds like you, look for a court reporter educational program that will help you learn the skills needed to enter this profession.
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