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MAG Guide Vol. 9

How to solve caption problems
Closed captions serve a very important function for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as for viewers who are learning to read or learning English as a second language. That's why, when occasional problems occur with captions -- such as garbled or misspelled captions, or no captions at all -- you want to solve the problem as quickly as possible. There are several reasons why you might encounter caption problems, some of are within your control and easily remedied. The more you know about how and why caption problems occur, the more you can ensure the quality of your captioning service and avoid problems in the future.

Poor reception
Because reception quality often varies on different channels -- depending on where you live -- captions may be better on some channels than on others. Even slightly poor reception can cause problems with your captions. If you are using an antenna to receive TV reception (with "rabbit ears" or loop indoors or a rooftop antenna), consider subscribing to cable TV (if it's available in your area), which usually results in improved reception.

If the television signal is affected by poor reception, captions can be garbled or white boxes may appear in the captions. Adjust your antenna to reduce "ghosting" (multiple images) in the picture, because the better the picture looks, the better the captions will work. If you subscribe to cable TV, switch to another channel to see if the captions are working properly. Frequently, this problem occurs within the local TV station or cable company, where the signal may be passing through equipment that distorts or erases the caption data. When this occurs, notify the engineering department at your local TV station or cable company.

Equipment
Captioning problems are often related to equipment, which can be easily adjusted. First, make sure that all cables are securely plugged into each piece of equipment -- including the television set, VCR, cable converter box, set-top decoder or caption-capable TV set -- as well as into the wall outlet. Next, turn everything on to make sure you are receiving a picture on all channels. Remember, captions on channels with poor reception may be garbled.

If you have a TeleCaption II decoder, you may be experiencing problems related to this decoder. TeleCaption II decoders manufactured in 1985, 1986 or early 1987 were not compatible with some forms of copyright protection used on rented videotapes. If you have one of these decoders, you may have trouble seeing captions on videos. TeleCaption II decoders manufactured during this time may also be incompatible with cable scrambling systems. To avoid these problems, you may need to have your decoder modified; check the date on the back of the decoder to determine if this is necessary. To have your decoder modified, you can take it to your retailer or send it to the manufacturer, the National Captioning Institute.

Program source
Sometimes, a program is listed as captioned, but may not be. In such cases, the program probably is captioned, though the captions are being blocked, accidentally stripped or destroyed by the program source's equipment. Luckily, this can easily be corrected by television stations, networks and cable companies. Captioning agencies -- such as the Media Access Group at WGBH -- can send technical information to you or to the program sources that explains how to avoid blocking or stripping captions.

When a home video is labeled as captioned ("CC"), but contains no captions, there may be several explanations. The home video distributor may have mistakenly used an uncaptioned master tape to make copies for home video distribution or is using equipment that strips the captions during the duplication process. When you rent or purchase a home video marked "CC" that turns out to be uncaptioned, you should ask for your money back and let the home video distributor (see list) know.

Captioning agency
Closed captions can contain errors or strange misspellings, which, in most cases, originate from the captioning agency that prepared them.

Live captioning
If you are watching a live program that is being stenocaptioned, occasional errors are unavoidable. Live captions are usually displayed in three lines rolling up from the bottom and are produced by "stenocaptioners" who listen to the show as it airs, typing the words in code on a keyboard.

Stenocaptioners prepare for live programs ahead of time by updating their "dictionaries" with phonetic symbols or "briefs" for anticipated names and places. The symbols are converted into English words by translation software, formatted into caption data and sent over phone lines to be mixed with the video signal. The closed-captioned video signal is then sent to your home via satellite, airwaves or cable. Your decoder changes the data into captions displayed on your screen, all of which happens one to three seconds after a speaker's words are spoken and allows no time to make any corrections. One wrong keystroke by the stenocaptioner or a poorly prepared dictionary can produce a strange combination of letters or syllables.

You can recognize stenocaptioning when there are pauses as the words and phrases paint onto the screen. Some news programs are captioned with a combination of stenocaptioning and "prescripted" captions. The prescripted captions paint on smoothly one row at a time and should contain few, if any, errors. When you see pauses within rows, you know that a stenocaptioner has taken over. Stenocaption errors usually result when the computer combines phonetic information to create a wrong (but similar-sounding) word or phrase; for example: "you brake fast" instead of "your breakfast."

Most responsible captioning agencies require a 99% accuracy rate for real-time captioning, but at 250 words per minute, even the best and most experienced stenocaptioner may make several errors per minute. Watch the network evening news to recognize experienced stenocaptioning. If you are watching garbled real-time captions, but you're sure that poor reception is not creating the problem, the captioning agency may have put an inexperienced person on the air.

Electronic newsroom captioning
Some local newscasts are closed captioned using an electronic newsroom system, which provide automatic captioning based on material typed ahead of time into the teleprompter. Late-breaking news, ad libs and live segments -- such as field reports or weather forecasts -- usually go uncaptioned. These systems occasionally put the wrong captions on a story or roll the captioning too fast. When this occurs, let the station know and tell them how important high-quality, comprehensive captioning is to you.

Off-line captioning
If you are watching a prerecorded program and you see errors or misspellings, you should contact your local TV station or cable company. When a program is taped, and captions can be prepared "off-line," you can expect virtually error-free captioning. Captions should be thoroughly checked and reviewed before broadcast or duplication. It is the captioning agency's responsibility to review its work and ensure high-quality captioning, while it's the responsibility of the producers and networks to monitor the work of their captioning agencies.

Please note that a common symptom of poor reception (or technical problems at the TV station) is when pairs of letters are missing; for example "Good night" might appear as "Good nht." While this may look like a misspelling, it's usually a result of poor reception or a technical glitch, rather than a case of sloppy captioning.

Consumer feedback is crucial
Consumer feedback is important to the television and video industry as they continue to learn to perfect and use captioning technology. The more they hear from you -- the caption-viewing audience -- the more they will become educated and aware of what captioning is all about and how valuable it is to many viewers. You also will need to work with retailers to help them become familiar with the TV sets with built-in captioning features. An open communication process -- combined with patience -- will result in more and better-quality captioning in the future.

If your caption problems originate at the program source -- the network, your local TV station, the cable channel or your local cable company -- let them know. Explain the problem in as much detail as possible, including the time, channel and name of the program.

If the problem is with a home video, write to the distributor -- whose name appears on the video box -- encouraging it to monitor the duplication process more closely and to install quality-control procedures to check captions. Ask your home video storeowner to contact the distributor as well.

If you see quality problems with captions, contact the captioning agency, whose name will appear in the credits at the end of the show. The Media Access Group at WGBH strives to provide the best captioning service possible, and we welcome your feedback (positive or negative) to ensure that we can continue to serve you well.

Resources
To solve closed captioning problems, or to provide feedback, contact the following television and cable networks, home video distributors and organizations serving the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities:

Television networks

ABC, Inc.
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-4551
http://www.abc.com

CBS
51 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 975-4321
http://www.cbs.com/

Fox Broadcasting Company
P.O. Box 900
Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900
http://www.fox.com/

NBC
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
(212) 664-4444 /
http://www.nbc.com/

PAX
601 Clearwater Park Road
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
(561) 659-4122
http://www.pax.tv/

PBS
1320 Braddock Place
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 739-5000
http://www.pbs.org/

UPN
11800 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 575-7000
http://www.upn.com/

WB Television Network
4000 Warner Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91522
(818) 954-6000
http://www.warnerbros.com/

Cable networks

A&E Network (A&E)
235 E. 45th Street
New York, NY 10017
(212) 661-4500
http://www.aande.com/

American Movie Classics (AMC)
200 Jericho Quadrangle
Jericho, New York 11753
(516) 803-4300
http://www.amctv.com

Animal Planet
7700 Wisconsin Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 986-0444
http://animal.discovery.com/

Black Entertainment Television (BET)
1235 W Place, NE
Washington, DC 20018
(202) 608-2000
http://www.bet.com/

Bravo (BRV)
200 Jericho Quadrangle
Jericho, New York 11753
(516) 803-4500
http://www.bravotv.com

CNBC, Consumer News and Business Channel
2200 Fletcher Avenue
Fort Lee, NJ 07024
(201) 585-CNBC
http://www.cnbc.com/

CNN
One CNN Center
Box 105366
Atlanta, GA 30348-5366
(404) 827-1500
http://www.cnn.com/

The Cartoon Network
Box 105264
1050 Techwood Drive, NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 827-1717
http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/

Country Music Television (CMT)
2806 Opryland Drive
Nashville, TN 37213
(615) 457-8501
http://www.cmt.com/

Comedy Central
1775 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
(212) 767-8600
http://www.comcentral.com/

Courtroom Television Network (Court TV)
600 Third Avenue, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10016
(212) 973-2800
http://www.courttv.com/

The Discovery Channel
7700 Wisconsin Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 986-0444
http://www.discovery.com/

The Disney Channel
3800 W. Alameda Avenue
Burbank, CA 91505
(818) 569-7500
http://disneychannel.disney.go.com/disneychannel

E! Entertainment Television
57500 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036-3709
(323) 954-2400
http://www.eonline.com/

ESPN
935 Middle Street, ESPN Plaza
Bristol, CT 06010-7454
(860) 766-2000
http://msn.espn.go.com/main.html

Food Network
1180 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
(212) 398-8836
http://www.foodtv.com/

fX
1440 South Sepulveda Boulevard
Suite 209
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 286-3800
http://www.fxnetworks.com/main.html

Headline News
One CNN Center, Box 105366
Atlanta, GA 30348
(404) 827-1500
http://www.cnn.com/HLN/

The History Channel
235 East 45th Street
New York, NY 10017
http://www.thehistorychannel.com/

Home Box Office (HBO/Cinemax)
1100 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
(212) 512-1000
http://www.hbo.com/
http://www.cinemax.com/

The Learning Channel (TLC)
7700 Wisconsin Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 986-0444
http://tlc.discovery.com/

Lifetime Television (LIF)
34-12 36th Street
Astoria, NY 11106
(718) 706-3600
http://www.lifetimetv.com/

MTV
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
(212) 258-8000
http://www.mtv.com/

The National Network (TNN)
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
(212) 258-6000
http://www.thenewtnn.com/

Nickelodeon
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
(212) 258-8000
http://www.nick.com/

Sci-Fi Channel
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
(212) 408-9100
http://www.scifi.com/

Showtime/TMC
1633 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
(212) 708-1600
http://sho.com/

The Travel Channel
2690 Cumberland Parkway, Suite 500
Atlanta, GA 30339
(404) 801-2400
http://travel.discovery.com/

Turner Entertainment Networks
1050 Techwood Drive, NW
Atlanta, GA 30348-5264
(404) 827-1717
http://www.tnt.tv/

USA Networks (USA)
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
(212) 408-9100
http://www.usanetwork.com/

VH-1
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
(212) 258-8000
http://www.vh1.com/

The Weather Channel
2600 Cumberland Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30339
(404) 434-6800
http://www.weather.com/

Home video and DVD distributors

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
PO Box 900
Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900
(310) 369-3900
http://www.foxhome.com/

A&E Video
(212) 210-1400
http://www.aande.com/

Artisan Entertainment
2700 Colorado Avenue
2nd Floor
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310) 449-9200
http://www.artisanet.com/

Buena Vista Home Entertainment
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
(818) 560-1000
http://www.disney.com/

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
10202 W. Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 244-4000
http://www.sony.com/

MGM Home Entertainment
2500 Broadway Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310) 449-3000
http://www.mgm.com/

Miramax Films Corp.
8439 Sunset Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90069
(323) 822-4200
http://www.miramax.com/

National Geographic Home Video
1145 17h Street
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 857-7680
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/

New Line Home Entertainment
116 N. Robertson Boulevard
Suite 400
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 967-6700
http://www.newline.com/

PBS Home Video
1320 Braddock Place
Alexandria, VA 22314-1698
(703) 739-5000
http://www.pbs.org/

Paramount Home Entertainment
5555 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90038-3197
(323) 956-5000
http://www.paramount.com/

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
10202 W. Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 244-4000
http://www.sony.com/

Touchstone Home Entertainment
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
(800) 723-4763
http://www.disney.com/

Trimark Pictures
4553 Glencoe Avenue
Suite 200
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
(310) 314-2000
http://www.trimarkpictures.com/

USA Films
100 N. Crescent Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 385-4400
http://www.usafilms.com/

Universal Home Entertainment
70 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608
(818) 777-4400 /
http://www.universalstudios.com/

Walt Disney Home Video
350 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
(818) 295-5200
http://www.disney.com/

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
4000 Warner Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91522
(818) 954-6000
http://www.warnerbros.com/

National organizations serving people who are deaf and hard of hearing

Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf
3417 Volta Place, NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 337-5220 voice
(202)-337-5221 TTY
agbell2@aol.com
http://www.agbell.org/

Association of Late-Deafened Adults
1131 Lake Street, #204
Oak Park, IL 60301
(877) 348-7357 voice/fax
(708) 358-0135 TTY
http://www.alda.org/

League for the Hard of Hearing
50 Broadway
New York, NY 10004
(917) 305-7700 voice
(917) 305-7999 TTY
(917) 305-7888 fax
info@lhh.org
http://www.lhh.org

National Association of the Deaf
814 Thayer Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 587-1788 voice/TTY
nadinfo@nad.org
http://www.nad.org/

National Fraternal Society of the Deaf
1118 South Sixth Street
Springfield, IL 62703
217-789-7429 voice
217-789-7438 TTY
thefrat@nfsd.com
http://www.nfsd.org/

Self Help for Hard of Hearing People
7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 1200
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 657-2248 voice
(301) 657-2249 TTY
national@shhh.org
http://www.shhh.org/

Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc./TDI
8630 Fenton Street, #604
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3803
(301) 589-3786 voice
(301) 589-3006 TTY
info@tdi-online.org
http://www.tdi-online.org

For additional information about closed captioning and how to solve captioning problems, contact us.


















Caption Services Description Services NCAM