Cash for Captioning - Finding Grants to Bridge the Budget Gap

Updated: May 09, 2024

This illustration features a sophisticated broadcast control room designed to symbolize the funding growth for closed captioning at PEG stations, with monitors displaying abstract visuals of growing crops and cityscapes. The scene includes advanced broadcasting equipment, emphasizing the integration of technology and funding for accessibility initiatives.

Closed captioning is an important service that PEG stations can offer their viewers. After all, captions not only help make sure important local programming can be enjoyed by hearing impaired viewers in the communities they serve, they are becoming increasingly ubiquitous and helpful for the civic engagement of all residents

Not only is accessibility important in its own right, but technically speaking, closed captioning is a requirement for PEG stations and other broadcasters, though the FCC hasn’t implemented the infrastructure to police captioning requirements. The rules actually go back to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That’s when the FCC adopted captioning requirements for most broadcast programming – and also required those programs be captioned when shown on the internet. Later, in 2016, the FCC added new rules that made PEG stations responsible for captioning as well. 

Rules or no rules, most cities and community media centers want to be digitally inclusive and provide captions for their residents. Some may even consider automated captioning/transcription services that also summarize transcripts, which would be helpful to efficiently work through the agendas of long government meetings. The problem, as you can probably guess, is that captioning services are not free. In fact, they can be cost-prohibitive, especially in smaller cities that have fewer accessibility resources available. 

With franchise fees and budgets getting tighter all the time, how do you bridge the funding gap and make your media more accessible? Is there any way to raise money to support closed captioning for your channel?

Actually, yes. Perhaps you can qualify for and successfully be awarded a grant. 

Starting at the Federal Level, the U.S. Department of Education offered applications for Stepping-up Technology Implementation for FY 2024 earlier this year. The announcement said the purpose of the Educational Technology, Media, and Materials for Individuals with Disabilities (ETechM2) Program is to “improve results for children with disabilities.” 

While the “absolute priority” for the awards this year was the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for meeting the individual needs of students with disabilities, the program is also designed to provide “support for captioning and video description that is appropriate for use in the classroom.” For 2024, the department estimated it would offer four awards of approximately $375,000 per year. 

Public agencies, city or township governments, private nonprofit organizations, and even for-profit organizations were eligible to apply (among others). But this was a competitive award. If it’s made available again in 2025, you’ll need to be registered in, which is the System for Award Management (a process that can take more than 10 business days), plus submit several other mandatory forms. 

In other words, this is not an easy application you can bang out over a lunch break, but if your organization is in a large metro area and you produce a high volume of video assets to preserve public records and educate residents on public resources, you might have a solid chance at receiving one of these awards in the future. 

You can also search for other opportunities at We recommend starting with more direct keywords like “closed captioning” or “transcription,” but don’t stop there! Many of our customers find grant funding by thinking outside the box. This means searching for funds earmarked for broader accessibility, digital inclusion, and educational projects. We’ll be discussing a particular success story using this tactic on an upcoming episode of the Government Video Podcast. You can also use paid services like GrantWatch or Candid, which help you find grants beyond the federal government. 

But your search shouldn’t end at the federal level. There is also potential funding at the state, city, and county levels of government, as well as other entities. For example, Wells Fargo, offers its own Trust Philanthropic Services, where it manages private and family foundations. Yes, foundations may have their own restrictions, such as geographic location or other eligibility requirements, but banks can be the conduit to a number of grant opportunities. And banks often have their own charitable programs as well.

Finding the funding you need to supplement or fully subsidize your PEG station’s captioning budget can be a daunting task. It’s likely going to take some research and a small mound of virtual paperwork to get in the running for grants from government entities, foundations, and other charitable outlets. But if you ask the hard-of-hearing members of your community, you’ll quickly learn it’s worth the effort.

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