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Cincinnati Council has nearly exhausted closed captioning budget

Jay Hanselman

By the end of the month, Cincinnati Council will likely have spent the $40,000 in the city’s closed captioning budget for the fiscal year.

The closed captioning is displayed on the CitiCable channel.  It is also shown in the Council chamber to aid the hearing impaired.

So far this fiscal year (starting July 1, 2014), the city has spent $35,666 for captioning service.  That leaves just about $4,300 left to cover April, May and June.  Current trends suggest that money will be gone when the April invoice arrives early next month.

Cincinnati-based Maverick Captioning Services provides the service for the city.  The captioning is similar to a stenographer in a courtroom.  A person using a stenography machine provides a transcript of meetings while they are in progress.  The company charges $160 per hour for the service, with a minimum of one hour for each session.

Longer regular council meetings and committee sessions are partly to blame for the increase.  For the calendar year 2013, the company billed for 203 hours of captioning time costing about $36,000.  In 2014, the billable time jumped to 311 hours, costing just more than $52,000.  

City spokesman Rocky Merz said in November, when W-V-X-U first reported on the issue, funding will be found to continue closed captioning.

“This is a critically important service,” Merz said at that time.  “It’s important to have public access for government proceedings.”

Merz and other city representatives said the closed captioning service is cheaper than providing sign language interpreters for Council meetings.

At one time, the city proposed dropping the captioning service.  But it has continued although the budget for it has been the bare minimum needed to provide it.