Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Captioned Radio to Take Another Step

It nears approval as an international recommendation by the International Telecommunication Union

“Captioned radio” is about to take another step forward.

These methods by which radio stations can transmit data that displays as text on future analog FM as well as digital radios is nearing approval as an international recommendation by the International Telecommunication Union, according to NPR Labs.

As we’ve reported, NPR Labs has demoed captioned radio on a prototype Delphi dual-display dashboard.

The ITU is a United Nations agency that adopts standards recommendations for telecommunications services worldwide. NPR Labs has been quietly working away on this project, funded by a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research; it’s great to see continued progress. An ITU recommendation would provide receiver manufacturers with a roadmap to take the captioned radio concept beyond U.S. borders.

On its website, NPR Labs urges anyone — but presumably receiver and chip makers, stations and people with hearing loss in particular — to contact regulators of radio spectrum in their countries and urge support of the captioned radio recommendation (PDF) that’s out for ballot by member countries of the United Nations.

The text recommends that receiver manufacturers “employing any or all of the ITU DSB System A, ITU DSB system F, ITU DSB system C and/or traditional analog FM be strongly encouraged to produce receivers that display captioning in a way consistent with ITU-R recommendations” and “that broadcasters be strongly encouraged to transmit programs with captioning as an integral part of their broadcast.”

Though not a formal standard, the language outlines how the captioned radio data could be transmitted with either an FM RDS subcarrier or with the data capabilities of several digital radio systems including DAB, Digital Radio Mondiale and HD Radio.

Balloting for this item closes Feb. 6.

This summer, the NPR Labs team showed government officials and representatives from groups representing disability communities its prototype car dashboard featuring a captioned-radio display in demos at both the White House and the Commerce Department.

NPR Labs conducted the first live captioned radio broadcast on election night 2008, when NPR’s election coverage was simulcast in captioned-radio format. It worked with the International Center for Accessible Radio Technology at Maryland’s Towson University, Boston’s WGBH Media Access Group and Harris Broadcast to provide captioning coverage for five local Public Radio Satellite System stations.

There were several demos that night; I attended the one at Towson University and I met several people with hearing loss who were excited about such a service.