WAMU pushes live captions for radio broadcasts

The logo of WAMU Radio. (Logo courtesy American University, Graphic by The Desk)

Public radio station WAMU has started offering closed captioning services of some of its radio broadcasts.

The announcement was made in a press release this week after the Washington, D.C. radio station began experimenting with closed captions during a recent radio broadcast that featured a local political candidate who is deaf.

For that broadcast, executives at WAMU (88.5 FM) said it relied on human transcription to provide real-time closed captioning of the interview through its website. That process worked fine for the interview, but WAMU realized a better solution would be needed if it wanted to continue providing captions.

The station was eventually led to ENCO, a company that provides automated solutions for closed captioning of live broadcasts. ENCO says its enCaption product offers “highly accurate” caption with “low latency.”

WAMU executives were apparently impressed by the technology: ENCO’s enCaption solution has been used as part of a pilot project that saw around 150 people regularly consuming closed captions via WAMU’s website.

“Our results already show deep engagement, and that this service is meaningful to a segment of our region’s population that was not previously being served by our content,” Robert Bertrand, the senior director of technology at WAMU, said in a news release.

The closed caption feature is still in a beta phase, and WAMU executives say they will continue to experiment with and fine-tune the product over time.

WAMU is operated by American University and offers public radio programs produced by NPR, American Public Media, Public Radio Exchange and Public Radio International.

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