Two television stations here will begin offering closed-captioning for deaf and hearing-impaired people on their local evening news programs next year, becoming the first stations in the country to offer the service for such shows, they said.
Starting in March, WCVB-TV and WGBH-TV will offer live closed-captioning, which is data included in television broadcast signals that can be translated by a special decoder into words at the bottom of the television screen.
ABC affiliate WCVB-TV will follow the lead of its network, which has included closed-captioning on its network news and much of its prime-time programming for several years. WGBH-TV, a public television station, has been involved in captioning entertainment programs but has not done real-time captioning.
Dr. Richard Thompson, director of the Massachusetts Office of Deafness, said the move is welcome news to hearing-impaired people.
“We have opened the doors to the hard of hearing to a much greater range of programs, particularly in local programming,” Thompson said through an interpreter. Thompson is hearing-impaired and can speak on the telephone either with the use of special equipment or with the aid of an interpreter.
“This has been going on for a long time on network television. But to the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that local television is closed-captioning the news,” he said.
Real-time captioning combines the latest computer technology with time-tested methods used by court stenographers who take down legal proceedings word for word, said Mardi Loeterman, director of WGBH’s Caption Center.
“There are several computers along the way. One translates the steno from phonetic symbols into English, another computer translates the English into closed-caption data that gets inserted into a television picture,” she said.