Churches find means to follow FCC rule


By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor

United Methodist churches in Mississippi that broadcast worship services and other programming apparently will be able to live within new Federal Communications Commission rules about closed captioning.

Several years ago, the FCC approved a rule that requires closed captioning for most programming on broadcast stations and networks. The rule went into effect Jan. 1. Closed captioning provides text of spoken words on the screen to assist the hearing impaired.

Eddie Rester, executive director and preacher for The United Methodist Hour, said most religious groups had thought they would be exempt from the rule. However, he said he learned in December that The UM Hour would not be exempt.

The United Methodist Hour filed a request for exemption with the FCC and had already received a challenge to the application. However, since then Rester said he has located a company that can provide the service at an affordable price.

“Our issue was not that we’re opposed to being closed captioned. The issue is the cost to caption a program,” Rester said. “There is not only an upfront cost but an on-going cost.”

The rule provides for some exemptions to the rule, including undue financial burden. That was the basis for The UM Hour’s request for exemption. To date only one exemption has been granted.

Rester said a deal is pending with Closed Caption Maker to provide the service for $3,000 up front for equipment and then $45 per week. Earlier cost estimates had come in at $16,000 per year.

“We will send them an audio file,” Rester said. “They will transcribe it and send it back for us to run through an encorder.”

When that deal is finalized, Rester said, he will withdraw the application for exemption.

The United Methodist Hour’s Time That Makes The Difference TV program is taped and then distributed to 13 televisions stations around the Southeast in seven states.

Meanwhile, Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church in Jackson planned all along to add closed captioning to its broadcast.

“We’ve already taken into account the close captioning. We’ve used a service referred to us through WAPT,” said Donnell Triplett, who coordinates Galloway’s media center. WAPT broadcasts Galloway’s Sunday morning worship service.

“We knew at one point that we would have to go to closed captioning,” Triplett said. “We were just trying to figure out the most cost-effective way to do it. With the service in New York we don’t even have to handle it. We didn’t have to purchase equipment.”

Triplett said the closed captioning is done live as the worship service is broadcast. The service charges $115-$125 per week.

Triplett said Galloway’s leadership decided broadcasting the service was too important to discontinue over closed captioning.

“(The program gives the) sick and shut-ins an opportunity to worship We get a large response from people who watch our broadcast,” Triplett said. “If we can offer God’s word to someone through our broadcast ministry with closed captioning, then we decided we should do it.”

Most other churches in the Mississippi Conference that broadcast worship services are apparently exempt due to the type of broadcast they produce.