The Sun Prairie Media Center is pleased to announce that virtually all programming seen on KSUN now features closed captions for the hearing impaired. These closed captions can be activated by selecting “menu” and then “setup” on Charter Spectrum cable boxes or by selecting “menu” and then “settings” on TDS cable boxes. Captions for individual programs or live streams are easily activated by selecting the “CC” button while watching on sunprairiemediacenter.com. Users of Roku or Apple TV devices should follow their device’s instructions for activating closed captioning.

The introduction of closed captioning brings an end to the Media Center’s use of “open captioning,” which are subtitles that are always on the screen and can’t be turned on or off by the viewer. The Media Center has been using “open captioning” since early 2018.

“The implementation of closed captioning has been a long time coming,” said Sun Prairie Media Center Jeff Robbins. “While we could have implemented closed captioning sooner, it made financial and organizational sense to wait until our broadcast automaton partner TelVue came out with their captioning solution, which has been in development for several years.”

Open captioning was instituted on KSUN over three years ago in order to make programming more readily accessible to hearing-impaired residents. The practice also ensured that KSUN was compliant with ADA guidelines. “Although there seem to be many interpretations and opinions surrounding captioning requirements, particularly for non-profit stations like KSUN,” said Robbins, “we felt the best and most inclusive solution was to get captioning started any way we could.”

However, not everyone was a fan of the captions. “Some viewers and even some of our member producers did not care for the fact that the captions were always on the screen,” continued Robbins. “Those who didn’t need them felt they were intrusive, even though we felt they were relatively small on the screen.”

A realistic closed-caption solution presented itself this summer when TelVue announced their “Smart Caption” service. The service does not require additional staff, but uses speech-to-text Artificial Intelligence to generate captions. Live city meetings have live captions, while other programming is captioned following production with a click of a button, ensuring captions are generated before broadcast on KSUN or being made available to watch on demand at sunprairiemediacenter.com.

The only negative aspect of the captioning, perhaps not surprisingly, is the additional cost. “While we feel this closed caption system was worth the wait and is a necessary implementation, it is not cheap,” said Robbins. “We are paying to caption programs by the minute and given the hundreds of hours of city meetings and other programing we produce each year, the costs to the Media Center will be significant.”

To that end, Robbins said the Media Center was seeking business sponsors of its closed captioning. Sponsors would be recognized on-air during captioned programming – which now is basically all programming — and via other marketing. Interested sponsors should call the Media Center at 608-837-4193 or e-mail director Jeff Robbins at jrobbins@cityofsunprairie.com.

Robbins also is asking for viewer feedback on the captions: “We can add Sun Prairie-specific names and locations to the caption’s vocabulary, ensuring that ‘Linnerud’ for example, comes up as ‘Linnerud,’ and we’ve already added hundreds of items. But if someone notices something that isn’t generated accurately, please let us know! Of course we want the captions to be as accurate and as beneficial to the viewer as possible.”