Field Report: FOX 24 Charleston Automates Live News Closed Captioning

WTAT-TV/FOX 24 significantly reduces costs using the ENCO enCaption3R3 to generate real-time captioning of local newscasts.

WTAT-TV is better known as FOX 24 in Charleston, SC, and has significantly accelerated its closed captioning workflow and improved accuracy with a transition to the ENCO software-defined enCaption3R3 system.

FOX 24 serves the “Lowcountry” by airing 21 hours of live local newscasts weekly, featuring breaking news, sports, weather and traffic. Its intensive local news schedule includes FOX 24 News Now, a live news-lifestyle-entertainment show that launched on January 9, 2017, and features topics and stories that are trending in the Charleston area.

FOX 24 chose enCaption3R3 because its powerful closed captioning speech-to-text engine accurately converts the spoken word into text in near-real-time. The station sends the audio of its live news program to the enCaption3R3 for processing, and feeds the closed captioning data to an HD/SD-SDI encoder. That encoder embeds the highly accurate captions into the vertical ancillary portion of the SMPTE 292M HD-SDI video stream for live broadcast.

“Launching and producing this new live show has been very exciting and it’s been well-received by our viewers, but the high cost of creating real-time closed captioning might have prevented us from doing this new show at all,” said Matt McCarthy, general manager of WTAT-TV/FOX 24, which is owned and operated by Cunningham Broadcasting.

“In a mid-size TV market like Charleston, the cost of hiring a real-time captioning service is one of the biggest cost barriers to launching a new live show,” McCarthy added. “The ENCO enCaption3R3 has proven to be an affordable, easy-to-use in-house captioning solution, which has allowed us to move forward with our plans to produce FOX News Now.”

McCarthy was further tasked with finding a system that was easy to install and operate, as the broadcaster was faced with a hard deadline to get the new workflow up and running. As they had already selected their new encoders (manufactured by Links Electronics), they had concerns about finding an open system that would offer seamless, trouble-free integration.

“The engineering team, myself included, was impressed with how easy it was to install enCaption and interface it with our encoder,” he said. “While we estimated that this process would take a week to a week and a half, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it only took a day and a half to have both systems up and running reliably, and producing highly accurate captions for live news.”

Another key reason for choosing enCaption3R3 is that it generates live captioning that is legally compliant with all FCC mandates. While there is a slight delay of about four or five seconds, McCarthy said it satisfies their need to provide cost-effective closed captioning for WTAT’s hearing-impaired viewers.

FOX 24 Charleston broadcasts live weekday newscasts from 7-9am, as well as a half-hour newscast at 6:30pm and an hour-long newscast at 10pm. That newscast leads directly into FOX 24 News Now at 11pm. The 7am, 6:30pm and 10pm news is produced by the station’s news-share partner, WCIV-TV—the ABC affiliate in Charleston, SC. While FOX 24 used to share the costs of its live captioning service with WCIV, today all of its captioning is now done in-house using enCaption3R3.

“We’ve seen significant cost savings since installing enCaption3R3,” said McCarthy. “Under our ENCO agreement, we can caption up to four hours of programming per day. That means we can create about six more hours per week of original, local programming, such as a new weekend sports show, without worrying about incurring additional closed captioning costs. That makes this a complete win-win.”

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