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What Does a Broadcast Captioner Do?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A broadcast captioner is responsible for providing closed caption text during a live television broadcast, often by utilizing a computer system and software similar to the equipment used by a court stenographer. Captioners can work onsite at a television network or station, though they can also telecommute from home, which often requires a greater upfront investment by the captioner. A broadcast captioner usually watches a television broadcast feed live, as it is being sent out to homes and other receivers, and provides real time captioning through the use of a keyboard designed to make shorthand typing easier and more efficient.

While there are different types of captioners, a broadcast captioner is responsible for generating closed caption text to accompany a live broadcast. This text can be seen on televisions designed to receive closed captioning, which is quite common for newer sets, and appears as text along the top or bottom of the screen. Such captioning can be quite advantageous for individuals with difficulty hearing or deafness, as they are better able to understand what is said without having to read the lips of those on screen.

The primary duties of a broadcast captioner entail viewing a live broadcast and typing out the captions for that program in real time. News broadcasts, for example, often have closed captions much like other television shows. These broadcasts are sent out from the network or station live, however, which means captioners cannot simply type up captions for them ahead of time. This is often done by offline captioners for recorded broadcasts. A broadcast captioner, therefore, needs to be able to type quickly and accurately to allow the system to relay text of what is being said by a news broadcaster in real time, usually with only a few seconds of delay between spoken content and captions.

While a broadcast captioner can work at a network or station, captioners can also work from home, usually with computer equipment and software that allows them to connect to a network through the Internet. A broadcast captioner uses an input keyboard much like that used by a court stenographer, allowing him or her to type in shorthand. This makes entry of caption data faster, though it also typically requires several years of professional training to become fully competent with this shorthand.

Since the systems are so similar, a broadcast captioner can also work as a court stenographer. Certifications are offered by different associations, such as the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) in the US, for both professions. During a major news story or emergency, captioners can work for many hours at a time, typing quickly and accurately, to ensure information is relayed to those who may be in need.

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