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Shortage of trained broadcast captioners predicted

A critical shortage of qualified broadcast captioners will leave millions of Americans without access to vital information — despite the mandates of a decade-old law — if Congress does not act to provide the funding necessary for training, said a new report from the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).

The shortage could, in a matter of months, cause many television stations in the country to run the risk of operating out of compliance with the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

The 1996 Telecommunications Act mandates that all new English-language programming be closed captioned by next January, and by 2010 all new Spanish-language programming likewise must be captioned.

Implementing the act will face a serious problem, the group found. “Captioning and CART services are provided by professionals trained in state-of-the-art techniques of real-time and stenographic court reporting. Currently there is a severe shortage of reporters — a shortage compounded by the fact that there are too few training programs to meet the demand for additional reporters and little awareness of reporting as a career option,” the report said.

There are only about 400 reporters doing captioning today. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that opportunities in captioning and real-time reporting are expected to grow by a minimum of 10-20 percent during the next decade.

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