You are here: joeclark.orgMedia accessCaptioning
Caption Quality Initiative transcripts and documentation → History of the CQI Conference

Posted 2003.11.05

History of the CQI Conference

by Jeff Hutchins

Some people have wondered how the Conference came into being and how it was decided who should participate. Here is a brief history of events.

The idea for the Conference was born last February when 4 of the captioning companies got together (at NCI) to talk about common problems they faced, particularly on September 11, 2001, when the major networks stayed on the air for more than 4 days without a break to cover the terrorist attacks on America. At the meeting, in addition to NCI, VITAC, CaptionMax, and WGBH, were Jo Ann McCann of the U.S. Department of Education, and Mark Golden, who is Executive Director of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).

Following the meeting, Joe Karlovits of VITAC called Jeff Hutchins and said it had been suggested that service providers and consumers should come together to discuss captioning quality, to determine if consumers agree with the problems identified by the captioners and, if so, to chart a course of action to deal with these problems. It was noted that there is no agreed upon standard for captioning and that the FCC has declined to set any rules for what constitutes a “captioned program.” Joe said he and Jo Ann felt Jeff would be the right person to organize a meeting of consumers and the service providers.

Jeff began organizing a conference almost immediately, working independently. Jo Ann agreed to be co-chair, and together, she and Jeff began mapping out the details for the conference, which was dubbed the Caption Quality Initiative -- CQI. Initially, they intended to invite just those captioning companies that have DOED grants, each of whom is required to have an advisory panel of consumers. Companies were to bring their panelists to the conference, and Jo Ann and Jeff intended also to invite representatives from all the major consumer groups.

As plans began to fall into place, many problems surfaced with the original ideas. The original site was to be the Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet, but after several delays and problems were encountered there, Jeff and Jo Ann began searching for alternate sites in the DC area. As for the invitation list, with hundreds of consumer groups in the country, things threatened to get out of hand logistically AND politically if attendance were not limited. Furthermore, because there was no group or organization that was sponsoring the conference, all the costs of the meeting would have to be borne by the attendees. Jeff and Jo Ann realized the cost was going to be close to $150 per person, and felt that would be a hardship on many consumer groups, who would also have to pay for travel and accommodations. If they invited reps from a few consumer groups, such as NAD, SHHH, AGBA, and ALDA, then other groups might be insulted and angry. The captioning companies planned to pay the expenses for their consumer advisers, many of whom also represent the major consumer groups. That would mean that some groups would get free representation while others would have to come up with a lot of money on their own.

In the end, it was decided that the only fair and workable solution was to limit attendance for this first CQI Conference to consumers who are already members of a formal advisory panel. To do anything else would have invited chaos and charges of inequity. With very limited resources for doing the actual Conference planning, it was important to keep it to a manageable size. In mid-June, a contract was signed with the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfax, Virginia. The hotel said they would be unable to accommodate more than 80 people. The only prudent course of action was to limit the Conference.

However, Jo Ann and Jeff had already changed their minds about which companies to invite. They decided to extend invitations to all the major service providers, whether or not they had a current DOED grant for captioning. Invited companies were asked to report any other service providers who should be invited. In the end, invitations were sent to 22 companies, encouraging each of them to bring consumers with them. By mid-August, we had nearly 80 people signed up (and paid) to attend, and on September 1, it was announced the Conference was “Sold Out.”