Become an expert advocate and leader for your profession

The 2019 NCRA Leadership and Legislative Boot Camp promises to provide attendees with an experience like no other when it comes to learning firsthand the power of advocacy and the influence good leadership can achieve.

The 2019 event is May 5-7.It will include two full days of training, exploration, and hands-on activities, designed to give everyone who attends the takeaways necessary to become successful advocates and leaders in the profession at the local, state, and national level. Training will end with role-playing and mock interviews to help prepare attendees for the final day of the event that culminates with visits with Washington, D.C., lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The site of the 2019 event is the Embassy Suites by Hilton, in historic Alexandria Old Town, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C. Anyone in the court reporting, captioning, or legal videography professions wanting to grow and hone their advocacy and leadership skills should make plans to attend the 2019 NCRA Leadership and Legislative Boot Camp.

Watch the JCR Weekly and JCR magazine for more details and information about registration for this one-of-a-kind event.

Become an expert advocate and leader for your profession

The 2019 NCRA Leadership and Legislative Boot Camp promises to provide attendees with an experience like no other when it comes to learning firsthand the power of advocacy and the influence good leadership can achieve.

The 2019 event is being held May 5-7 and will include two full days of training, exploration, and hands-on activities designed to give everyone who attends the takeaways necessary to become successful advocates and leaders in the profession at the local, state, and national level. Training will end with role-playing and mock interviews to help prepare attendees for the final day of the event, which culminates with visits with Washington, D.C., lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The site of the 2019 event is the Embassy Suites by Hilton, in historic Alexandria Old Town, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C. Anyone in the court reporting, captioning, or legal videography professions wanting to grow and hone their advocacy and leadership skills should make plans to attend the 2019 NCRA Leadership and Legislative Boot Camp.

Watch the JCR Weekly and JCR magazine for more details and information about registration for this one-of-a-kind event.

The 2018 midterm elections: What happened and how it affects the professions

By Matthew Barusch

On Nov. 6, the American people cast their ballots for a variety of federal, state, and local elections, with turnout surpassing that of the last two midterms in 2010 and 2014. As of this printing, the Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in eight years, holding at least 234 seats, and Republicans currently holding 201 seats; three races are still uncalled. The Republicans held their majority in the U.S. Senate, having flipped three red state seats held by Democrats. A few House and Senate seats have yet to be called, but these facts are beyond dispute: The Republicans maintain a slim majority in the Senate, while the Democrats won control of the House.

The House of Representatives

The Democrats picked up 37 seats in the House of Representatives, largely in suburban districts. This means that Democrats will have an almost 30-seat majority in the House in the 116th Congress beginning Jan. 3, 2019. Some of the flipped seats come in swing districts that have slowly started leaning Democratic over the last few years. This trend was exemplified by the election of Democrat Lucy McBath in Georgia’s 6th district. Current Rep. Karen Handel was elected in a special election against Jon Ossoff in 2017 by a margin of approximately 3.5 percent. McBath beat Handel just 16 months later by just over 3,000 votes, or about 1 percent.

Another trend this year was the unprecedented number of women elected to represent Congressional districts. More than 100 women will now be serving in the House, the most ever in the history of the United States. Many of these newcomers unseated longtime members, such as in Virginia’s 7th district where Democrat Abigail Spanberger won over incumbent Republican Dave Brat.

A third trend to watch showed that increasingly progressive candidates, exemplified in New York’s 14th district where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won against the more moderate Rep. Joe Crowley this June in the Democratic primary, were capturing votes.

The Senate

The Senate will remain in Republican control for the next two years. As of this printing, Republicans have picked up at least one seat overall, increasing their majority to 52 seats. In a few red states, Republicans won over sitting Democrats: Missouri’s attorney general Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) beat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.); Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) won over Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.); and businessman Mike Braun took over the seat occupied by Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.). In one of the most expensive races of the cycle, Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) beat Sen. Bill Nelson (D- Fla.) by roughly 10,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast.

There were a few surprises: In Arizona, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) defeated Rep. Martha McSally (R) to become the state’s first female Senator and the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Arizona in 30 years. Also, in Nevada, Rep. Jackie Rosen (D) beat out incumbent Senator Dean Heller (R).

The last remaining Senate race was decided was in Mississippi, where appointed Sen. Hyde-Smith was forced into a run-off with former State Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. When the final votes were in on November 27, incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith won reelection over Democrat Mike Espy by 8 percent.

State changes

At the state level, Democrats also made some gains overall, flipping seven governorships and picking up hundreds of seats in state legislatures nationwide. Two of the most hotly contested races were called almost two weeks after November 6, with Republicans prevailing in both the Georgia and Florida gubernatorial races after provisional ballots were counted.

What does it all mean?

What does this mean for governing during the next two years?

  • Following changes in the Trump administration and statements from members of both the House and Senate, we can expect intensified focus on the ongoing Special Counsel investigation.
  • While we will undoubtedly see legislative focus in the House on liberal agenda items such as gun control and healthcare, legislation on these issues will likely be stalled in the Senate.
  • Likewise, it will be difficult for Senate Republicans to pass legislation through a Democratic House that is too left-leaning.
  • A few small bipartisan legislative items under discussion, such as some type of infrastructure package or legislation on digital privacy, could move forward.
  • In the Senate, expect to see increased activity on judicial confirmations. One of the major objectives of the Republicans in recent years has been to appoint conservative judges to the courts. Now that Republicans have a larger majority in the Senate, we can expect that the Senate will continue to work on confirming President Trump’s judicial nominees at an increased pace.

How can we expect these results to impact the court reporting and captioning professions?

NCRA’s Government Relations Department is optimistic about what the results mean for NCRA and its legislative agenda. First, it is important to note that the vast majority of NCRA’s congressional allies have won re-election, including members of Congress such as Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.). Second, the House of Representatives is likely to address some legislation that NCRA supports, such as the Training for Realtime Writers Grant, a program included in the Higher Education Act (HEA) that funds schools teaching realtime. The HEA is long overdue for reauthorization, and we are optimistic that the House will bring this measure up for consideration. Third, another component of the 2019 Legislative Plan recently approved by the NCRA Board of Directors includes introducing legislation that would require court reporters to be used to create a record in federal capital case trials. The pursuit of these requirements, the first of its kind, is likely to be received favorably by the House of Representatives in 2019.

What is the next step for me?

It is very important for all of us to engage in our government and political spheres, not just as court reporters, but as Americans. I’d like to thank each and every person who voted in the 2018 midterm elections, and I hope that you will continue to remain involved and engaged in protecting the professions. One way that you can do that is to attend Boot Camp on May 5-7, 2019, which will teach you about the nature of politics and how to advocate for the court reporting and captioning professions. You can also contribute to the NCRA Political Action Committee (PAC), which utilizes your contributions to help elect and re-elect members of Congress who support the professions of court reporting, captioning, and legal video. If you have any questions about the midterm election results, Boot Camp, or the PAC, please contact me at mbarusch@ncra.org. Remember, the best tool that the court reporting and captioning professions have in their advocacy arsenal is you!

Matt Barusch is NCRA’s Manager of State Government Relations. He can be reached at mbarusch@ncra.org.

The Importance of Voting

By Shaunise Day

NCRA Student Member Shaunise Day

Next week, on Nov. 6, we have the chance to let our voices be heard by voting for our elected representatives and community referendums. As American citizens, we all have a civic duty to vote, and the stakes are high in this midterm election year. Some people may feel that their vote does not matter or that midterms aren’t important. But voting is essential to our democracy, and real change will only start when you let your voices be heard by showing up and voting. Whether you are voting early or at the polls, you have the chance to make a difference. Let’s get out the vote for this election year. Your voice has power when you vote.

The midterm elections include elections to federal offices and may determine which political party will control each chamber of Congress for the next two years. All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be on the ballots this year. (House Representatives are elected to two-year terms, and Senators are elected to six-year terms.) We the people elect our officials to Congress. In addition, you may be able to vote in many state and local elections. Before heading to the polls, spend a little time researching the measures, propositions, and candidates you plan to support. For more information on what’s on your ballot, go to Vote411.org.

Protecting Our Profession

During this important midterm election year, we have a chance to establish and build relationships with new members of Congress. Behind the scenes, our NCRA PAC Governing Board is advocating on behalf of every member in the court reporting, captioning, and legal video professions. When it comes to legislative issues, it is important that we continue to educate our lawmakers on why our work matters. We must continue to push our agenda on Capitol Hill. For the lawmakers who are in support of protecting our professions, our NCRA PAC works closely at monitoring and contributing to their campaigns.

Your donations to the NCRA PAC are important for this reason. We have a lot of critical issues on the table within our profession. The number one issue is the shortage of reporters that we are experiencing nationwide. Together we can take the necessary steps to rebuild this wonderful profession, but to do so, we need the support and participation of every NCRA member. I am asking you to roll up your sleeves and do your part by getting involved. Now is your chance to be a part of the change that the court reporting and captioning industry is seeking by voting in your local and state elections. Also consider contributing to NCRA PAC. Visit NCRA PAC for more information.

Want to get even more involved? Plan ahead for NCRA’s Legislative Boot Camp coming to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area from May 5-7, 2019. This event offers training in advocating for your profession, speaking with legislators, creating effective campaigns, and more.

New Section 199A for Pass-Through Businesses: A Case Study: Court Reporters

JD Supra posted an article on Oct. 23 that presents a case study that applies the new Proposed Regulations under Section 199A to a court reporter and her business.

Read more.

Salem councilor wants closed captioning on all TVs operating in city’s public areas

The Statesman Journal, Salem, Ore., reported on Oct 23 that a city councilor wants to require all televisions operating in the city’s public areas to turn on closed captioning, a move aimed at accommodating the deaf and hard of hearing.

Read more.

How to file a captioning complaint with the Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) encourages feedback from television viewers. According to the FCC, a complaint is a form of feedback, and the Commission wants feedback from viewers. Any television viewer who cares about captioning quality is encouraged to file a complaint whenever they see poor captioning, and you can easily file a complaint from the fcc.gov website.

Many television stations are now using machine captioning or simply the teleprompter as opposed to human captioning. Several companies provide machine captioning to the television stations. These companies and their products are IBM (Watson), ENCO (enCaption3 and 4),  Link (ACE Encoders), and EEG (Lexi).

To file a complaint, we suggest you focus on accuracy, which is one of the four tenets of captioning quality established by the FCC in 2014 (the others are synchronicity, completeness, and placement).

To be accurate, captions must reflect the dialogue and other sounds and music in the audio track to the fullest extent possible based on the type of programming. Accuracy also requires captions to identify the speakers. We find that automatic captioning violates this standard in many ways:

  • Punctuation: Machine captioning provides limited, or wrong, punctuation.
  • Speaker identification: Machine captioning does not identify speakers with >> or names, often including captions from multiple speakers in the same line.
  • Lyrics and sound effects: The FCC Caption Quality best practices clearly state that lyrics and sound effects must be included when measuring accuracy. Engines don’t.
  • Proper nouns:  Proper nouns are a problem with many engines, especially those engines not properly trained.

When you watch television programming, keep these criteria in mind and make notes of any errors in these areas that you see. When possible, try to take photos or record video on your phone to upload with your complaint. In the complaint form provided by the FCC, you will be asked to elucidate the errors and mistakes that you see. You may also attach a screen shot or video showing what you are making a complaint about.

When you open the complaint form provided by the FCC, you need to fill in the following fields:

  • Your email address
  • Subject of the complaint (e.g.: [Station] does not meet FCC quality standards)
  • Description of the complaint (detail the specific instances)
  • Accessibility issues (choose “Closed Captioning on TV” for TV programs)

Once you choose your accessibility issue, additional fields will appear. Those with an asterisk are mandatory.

  • *Preferred method of response: The FCC and the station have to respond to your complaints. This will allow you to choose what medium they use to do so. Your options are email, fax, letter, other, relay service, telephone, and TTY.
  • Name of company complaining about: Enter the name of the specific station.
  • City of company complaining about: Enter the city in which the station is located. For national feeds, you may need to look up the station online.
  • State of company complaining about
  • ZIP code of company complaining about
  • Phone number of company complaining about
  • *Date of your issue: you must enter an actual date, even if the problem is continuous.
  • *Time of your issue
  • *Your TV method (cable, satellite, fiber, internet, over the air)
  • *Name of subscription service (your cable company)
  • TV channel
  • Call sign
  • Network
  • Name of TV program
  • *City where program was viewed
  • *State where program was viewed
  • *Your first name
  • *Your last name
  • *Address 1
  • Address 2
  • *City
  • *State
  • *ZIP
  • *Phone
  • *Filing on behalf of someone? (yes/no)
  • Attachments: Include here any photos or video you may have taken of the captioning errors

After you complete and submit the complaint to the FCC, the FCC will evaluate the complaints and contact you if more details are provided. After this, they generally reach out to the programmer or TV station. At that point, the station may also contact you to compile their response to the FCC. This can take 30-60 days. When you receive these responses, please forward them to NCRA’s Government Relations Manager Matt Barusch at mbarusch@ncra.org, for record keeping.

NCRA believes that machine captioning is not ready for live television programming or any other live events. We know the companies behind this technology will keep working to improve their products. NCRA is committed to providing the best possible access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Court reporter transcription fees increase 

The South Carolina Lawyers Weekly reported on Oct. 17, that attorneys in the state will have to pay more for official transcripts after the state’s Supreme Court approved an amendment to its Appellate Court Rules that bumped up court reporter transcription fees across the state. Notable among the transcription fee increases is a $1 price-per-page increase to produce an original transcript.

Read more. (Subscription required.)

Court reporters seek regulation 

The Virginia Lawyers Weekly reported on Oct. 16, that Virginia court reporters plan to seek state regulation in the 2019 General Assembly, according to materials submitted to a panel that recommends changes in the law for civil practice

Read more. (Subscription required.)

Report from the FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee meeting

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) met on Oct. 3 for the last meeting of their second term. This committee comprises organizations in the telecommunications and accessibility realms and provides recommendations on accessibility regulations for the full commission. NCRA has participated for many years in this committee as subcommittee members of the Video Programming subcommittee, which occasionally crafts recommendations on captioning regulations and best practices for the full committee to consider. In attendance at this meeting were NCRA President Sue Terry, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Board Member Steve Clark, CRC; members Kelly Linkowski, RPR, CRR, CRC, CPE, and Darlene Parker, FAPR, RPR; and NCRA’s Government Relations Manager Matthew Barusch. The meeting was captioned by a live captioner, with captions shown in the room and streamed on the Web, along with StreamText captions.

Much of the agenda for this meeting was dedicated to consideration and approval of recommendations from other subcommittees, as well as a robust discussion on methods to increase consumer engagement. However, a portion of the meeting was dedicated to a review of possible topics of consideration for the DAC’s next term. Included on this list is the issue of automatic speech recognition, including the possible development of technology-neutral captioning quality metrics. As stated by Will Schell, Advising Attorney for the FCC’s Disability Rights Office, the recommendation is for the committee to “explore opportunities and challenges of developing technology-neutral metrics for closed captioning quality, with an eye toward facilitating objective comparisons between different captioning technologies, including automatic speech recognition, in terms of their ability to yield accuracy, completeness, synchronicity, and placement.”

Barusch gave a short speech towards the end of the meeting, reaffirming NCRA’s interest in this topic and commitment to assisting in the development of such metrics.

“Given the rise of ASR usage, especially in the broadcast captioning industry, this topic is particularly important for the DAC to consider,” Barusch said. “We have a number of concerns that this technology is not ready or able to meet the standards set by the FCC in 2014 and feel that it is being implemented to the detriment of consumers.”

Visit the FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee page for more information.