All television stations that are using Enhanced Electronic Newsroom Technique (ENT) to caption their news programs should regularly review their compliance with the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) rules, promptly respond to consumer feedback, and implement technical solutions to improve service to viewers who are deaf or hearing-impaired. Failure to comply could lead to FCC fines, a mandate to use real-time captioning instead of ENT, or other penalties.
Nearly all television programming must be captioned to serve the needs of viewers who are deaf or hearing-impaired. For several years, many television stations used ENT to provide captions for their live newscasts. ENT is an automated technique that converts the words in a teleprompter script into captions. ENT is an accurate, cost-effective alternative to full real-time captioning. However, the FCC proposed in 2013 to phase out ENT because too much news content was not scripted, and therefore not captioned.
NAB successfully negotiated with the FCC to allow many television stations to continue using ENT for the captioning of live news programming if they comply with certain best practices that characterize Enhanced ENT.
ENHANCED ENT BEST PRACTICES
|In-Studio Programming||All programming that is produced in-studio must be scripted, including in-studio news, sports, weather and entertainment programming.|
|Weather||Weather interstitials within a news program must be scripted. The FCC allows some flexibility given the relative difficulty of captioning multiple weather segments. Although the scripts for weather interstitials need not exactly track the words used on air, the captions must accurately summarize the audio text that accompanies the visual information on the screen and describe weather forecast information.|
|Pre-Produced Programming||All pre-produced programming segments must be scripted to the extent technically feasible.|
|Live Programming||If not scripted, all live programming, including interviews, live on-the-scene and/or breaking news segments must be supplemented with crawls and other textual information.|
|Training||Television broadcasters must provide training to all news staff toward improved news scripting.|
|Compliance||Television broadcasters must appoint an “ENT Coordinator” to track the newsroom’s compliance.|
*All stations except for the four major national broadcast networks and their affiliate stations in the Top 25 DMAs are allowed to use ENT to caption live programming.
The option to use Enhanced ENT remains critical to the ability of stations in small and medium market to offer local news and information programming. The FCC, however, considers the accessibility of such programming for the deaf and hard of hearing to be of paramount importance and will only permit continued use of ENT captioning if stations consistently follow the best practices for Enhanced ENT. The FCC is actively monitoring television station compliance with these ENT best practices through consumer complaints and surveys. Not only will failure to abide by them potentially result in enforcement action, but also may cause the FCC to extend the requirement that local news and information programming be real-time captioned to all markets.
NAB recommends that all stations create a program of regularly scheduled checks of your Enhanced ENT to ensure compliance with the best practices, on a biweekly or monthly basis.
Going forward, broadcasters should consider further improvements to their ENT process. Key areas for attention include:
- Synchronicity and pacing of captions
- Accuracy and completeness of captions (e.g., missing words, especially right before a commercial break)
- Size and format of captioning text and captioning window
- Ensuring that scripts for all weather reporting within news programming closely track the words spoken on the air
- Response to viewer comments about captioning
NAB also recommends that stations retain internal samples of ENT captioning for comparison to future progress.
Additional information can be found in NAB’s counsel memo regarding Enhanced ENT for live programming. NAB also plans to provide further guidance and training resources to help stations to further improve Enhanced ENT in the near future. Please watch NAB’s newsletters for details.