CPB Media Room

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Awards Funds to Extend PBS NEWSHOUR Election Coverage to Diverse Audiences

  • For Immediate Release on January 19, 2012

NEWSHOUR Open Election 2012 enables citizen-driven translation of news, speeches and debates into multiple languages

Washington, D.C. – The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) today announced funding for PBS NEWSHOUR to support NEWSHOUR Open Election 2012, a public media initiative that will enhance the program’s election coverage and better inform diverse audiences about important election issues.

Through a $420,000 grant from CPB, NEWSHOUR Open Election 2012 is utilizing crowd-sourcing technologies developed by the Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF) and Mozilla to enable citizen volunteers to translate and caption 2012 election coverage into dozens of languages, as well as for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. These technologies will make election news, speeches and debates more accessible for diverse audiences, helping to increase their understanding of, and engagement in, the political process.

“Americans across the country depend on public media to provide trusted information and news, which is especially important during an election year,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of CPB. “Guided by our strategic platform, known as the Three D’s – digital, diversity and dialogue – we are investing in new technologies that will expand the reach of public media journalism and connect our content to all Americans so they may become more engaged in our civil society.”

NEWSHOUR Open Election 2012 builds on PBS NEWSHOUR’s reputation as one of the most trusted news programs on television and its commitment to better serve audiences through a more engaging web and social media presence.

PBS NEWSHOUR will launch the translation and captioning project during President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address on Jan. 24.

"From Chinese to Dutch, the speech translation is a true service to those for whom English is a second language and for those who are hard of hearing," explained Hari Sreenivasan, correspondent and director of Digital Partnerships for PBS NEWSHOUR. "This technology will make the candidates’ words accessible to several billion readers."

Two prior tests of the captioning technology proved highly successful. The first was a translation of the 2011 State of the Union Address, which was fully converted via open-sourced captions into seven languages and partially translated into 16 more. The second was a translation of events following the death of Osama bin Laden, which was interpreted in 15 languages.

PBS NEWSHOUR’s partners, Mozilla and PCF, are providing the innovative technology and expertise that make this project possible.

PCF’s technology, known as Universal Subtitles, enables PBS NEWSHOUR video content to be captioned into any language through crowd-sourcing.

"Universal Subtitles will let volunteers join the PBS NEWSHOUR community, find videos that need translation into languages they speak, and review and edit each other's work. It lets the audience play an active role in bringing the show to people who wouldn't be able to watch without translation,” said Nicholas Reville, co-founder and executive director of PCF. “Subtitling is one of the rare online volunteering activities that is actually extremely helpful to the organization. We are going to be engaging the PBS NEWSHOUR audience around the election in ways that have never happened before."

As the election cycle continues throughout the year, a new tool from Mozilla, Mozilla Popcorn, will enable users to enhance PBS NEWSHOUR’s online footage by embedding interactive information – news feeds, details about a location, person or topic, or social media feeds – and adding personal commentary, notes or reference sources directly into online videos. Called "the future of online video" by Fast Company, Popcorn will provide viewers with new ways to gain context about, participate in and engage with the news. This technology will help NEWSHOUR create a more interactive and informative experience for its viewers around the election.

About CPB

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government's investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,400 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.

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