Closed captioning and the elimination of POTS lines

NCRA recently contacted the Society of Broadcast Engineers regarding concerns of how elimination of POTS lines affects closed captioning. According to a white paper submitted by NCRA, telephone companies are phasing out POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines in favor of fiber-optic, digital lines, or VoIP lines, which are more efficient for their services but can result in disrupted transmission of closed-captioning data. VoIP compresses the caption data, which damages the captions to the point of making the data unusable on the air. In addition, VoIP can cause random phone line drops, making it unreliable for broadcast captioning.

NCRA states that television stations need to be aware that captioners are still relying on POTS lines and, thus, broadcasters should work with captioners to choose an alternative delivery method. “The onus falls on the broadcaster to remain compliant with the FCC, and they need to work with their captioning vendor to ensure that all the different aspects of the technology work properly,” says be Carol Studenmund, Chair of the Legislative Captioning Subcommittee of the Captioning Committee. One such alternative is upgrading to caption encoders with HD capability that can receive captions through IP delivery.

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