PCTV Gets Closed Captioning on Cable After Issuing Complaint
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — After some advocacy from local and federal entities, Pittsfield Community Television has added closed captioning for cable viewers.
The organization implemented closed captioning for certain programs about a year ago but came to a roadblock when the captioning was coming through on streaming but not through cable boxes. It was restored after a complaint reached the hands of the Federal Communications Commission.
Members of the Cable Advisory Committee agreed that this is a "great thing" as it provides better access to people who are hard of hearing and people who prefer to have the sound off.
PCTV's Executive Director Shawn Serre explained that the captions, which only showed up on streamed programming, have been active since December 2022.
In January, the Commission on Disabilities provided $1,850 of its parking violation funds to support 500 hours of closed captioning when Serre communicated the issue. The panel agreed to draft a letter to Charter Spectrum and with help from the Alliance for Community Media a complaint was sent.
It was mailed by the commission in July and Serre did not hear much back until a couple of weeks ago when he realized there was some back-and-forth communication between the FCC and Spectrum.
"So someone in one of their departments, whether it was their legal department or their technical department or both, was now aware that there was a problem and in the last two weeks, we've had some developments," he said.
The cable company's technicians began to contact PCTV to give assistance and on Thursday, the same day as the cable committee's meeting, Serre was notified that the problem was fixed.
He said the documents between Spectrum and the FCC showed that Spectrum seemed to push back on the issue until it couldn't anymore. He speculated that it was possibly more of a corporate decision than a technical issue, though he doesn't know for a fact.
"Now we finally can see closed captioning on the programs of PCTV and again, not all programs are captioned so if someone is turning on their caption setting on their cable box and they see nothing, that might be normal because not all programs are captioned," Serre explained.
"As I mentioned, we're trying to prioritize the most important governmental and educational programs that we can. Maybe if we can get more funding in the future, we'll be able to capture even more of the programming but it does come down to the fact that there is a lot of programming on PCTV, a lot of original programming, and that does have a cost per minute of getting captions on here so it's our intent to do more but right now we're trying to get to the most important ones."
He explained that the closed captioning service uses AI to translate the speech and is a smart system that can have vocabulary added to it.
"Closed captioning has been around for 30 or 35 years, maybe more but it was always very expensive because it required our live person sitting there, listening to the meeting, and typing along to it and that's just not necessary anymore," he added.
Sara Hathaway said this is a big victory for the Commission of Disabilities and that this service is also for everyone.