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October 1, 2003

Morning news gets real-time captions

From: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, HI - Oct 1, 2003

KHON-TV now delivers instant closed captions for the hearing-impaired

By Helen Altonn

For the first time in Hawaii, deaf and hearing-impaired residents were able to watch a morning television news broadcast today and know almost instantly what was being said.

KHON-TV began real-time closed captioning today on its Hawaii Morning News from 5 to 8 a.m.

Closed captioning is automatically provided on all news broadcasts at KHON and other local television stations, but it's done in advance and linked to the TelePrompTer.

KHON-TV News Director Dan Dennison said the morning news is the most important show to begin real-time close captioning "as it has more live, unscripted elements and segments than any other local broadcast, so having real time will allow deaf and hearing-impaired viewers to have captioning of virtually everything that is said, scripted or not."

"We are extremely excited as this will be the first time any daily newscast on Hawaii local stations will offer real-time closed captioning," said Sharon Mujtabaa, president of The Caption Co. Inc.

The company learned Monday it was awarded a $250,000 U.S. Department of Education grant over three years to provide real-time captioning for KHON Channel 2, she said.

"They said it was going to start tomorrow and we really had to scramble," said Mujtabaa.

But the company had just captioned the discussion segment aired by KHON last Wednesday after the documentary on the ice epidemic "so we knew we had everything in place," she said.

She said her company and KHON also are working on an agreement to offer real-time closed captioning on the state's nightly news shows at 6 and 10 beginning in January.

"When we first started looking to do this, we wanted the widest possible audience, the largest viewership," she said, explaining discussions with KHON began about captioning "Hawaiian Moving Company," then turned to news programming.

Hawaii has about 102,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing people and the TV stations have provided only TelePrompTer captioning, "which is woeful, really," Mujtabaa said.

"No studio interviews or guests who were interviewed could be captioned, nothing live."

She said the bus strike was "a perfect example."

"Every day they went out to talk to bus drivers and people and none of that could be captioned."

She said locally based captioners will perform the real-time captioning from remote locations.

"We'll only use local ones because it's important for the dialect and pidgin, even the names of food," she said. "It's strange when someone from New York is trying to caption something here."

The captions will appear on the screen about one second after they're written by the captioners, she said.

"It is phenomenally fast. We can even set it to one-half second if we want to."

Mujtabaa said her company has been doing closed captioning here since 1995 for City Council meetings, the Public Broadcasting System and some of Olelo's educational programs.

"But it's the first time for a newscast."

Dennison said he and the station General Manager Rick Blangiardi "are completely committed to serving the deaf and hearing impaired community.

"We have great interest in extending this to our other news programming and all special programming and are working through the possibility of doing so after the first of the year," Dennison said.

© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin