WJZ expands its use of real-time captioning Broadcast: The typewritten words for all of Channel 13's news shows will be accessible to those who can pick up the signal.

On the Air

September 08, 1996|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Try watching television with the sound turned off, and you'll get an idea why people like Brenda Battat are lauding Baltimore's WJZ-TV, Channel 13, for its decision to expand real-time closed-captioning beyond the late-afternoon and evening hours to include all its weekly news programming.

"If you have a hearing loss and you can't hear television, you're basically cut off from the normal information channels people go to," says Battat, deputy executive director of the Maryland-based Self Help for Hard of Hearing People Inc., a nonprofit educational and self-help group with 250 chapters scattered throughout the country. "Most of the national news programs are captioned, but not the local news, and you want to keep up with what's happening around you."

Closed-captioning allows the hearing-impaired to read what is being said on their televisions, usually on a strip of dialogue running across the bottom of the screen. Real-time closed-captioning allows viewers to see exactly what is being said, ad libs and all, as opposed to the scripted dialogue that would otherwise run across the screen.

Both processes are available only on certain sets, and only on certain programs. Since July 1993, all televisions with 13-inch screens or larger have had to be equipped to pick up the closed-captioning signal. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that all TV programming be closed-captioned, although it leaves the details (such as how and when) up to the Federal Communications Commission.

Beginning tomorrow, all of WJZ's newscasts will be real-time closed-captioned. Viewers will experience perhaps a two- or three-second delay between the moment a word is uttered and the moment it appears on the screen.

WJZ, which began using real-time closed-captioning in December 1993, is the first Baltimore station to use the technology on all its newscasts. O'Conor, Piper & Flynn Realtors has signed on as corporate sponsor.

WBAL, Channel 11, uses real-time captioning, but only on its 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. WMAR, Channel 2, and WBFF, Channel 45, close-caption their newscasts, but not using real-time technology.

All three say they anticipate expanding their use of real-time closed-captioning, which allows not only dialogue to appear on the screen, but also sound effects -- cheers, boos, laughter, whatever.

"I only watch what's captioned," Battat says. "I just got rid of my cable because so little cable TV is captioned [less than 12 percent]. It's kind of annoying that I can only really watch what the producers decide to caption."

Suspect's family

Three relatives of Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski, including the brother who turned him in to authorities, are scheduled to be interviewed by Lesley Stahl and Mike Wallace on "60 Minutes" tonight.

Kaczynski's brother, David, mother, Wanda, and David's wife, Linda Patrik, are being interviewed for the first time on television. CBS promises a discussion touching on Kaczynski's childhood, his deteriorating relationship with his family and his mental health.

"60 Minutes" airs on WJZ, Channel 13, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Pub Date: 9/08/96

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