Published on January 20, 2019
Entrepreneur of top closed-captioning company receives NAIT’s Distinguished Alumni Award
When Rena Nathanail started working in Toronto in the 1980s, the field of closed captioning was a fledgling industry. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) had just begun to mandate that broadcast stations provide closed captioning for a certain amount of hours of programming per day as a condition of license.
For Nathanail (Court Reporting '84), who was one of only two real-time closed captioners in Canada working for the sole not-for-profit captioning provider, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. “I was in the right place in the right time,” she says.
Setting the bar high
Although Nathanail possessed a natural talent for writing stenography, she says that the skills she learned at NAIT set her apart. Court reporting graduates from other schools in Canada fulfilled requirements at 165 words per minute, whereas NAIT’s graduates clocked in at 225 or higher. So when she set out on her own to start National Captioning Canada, Nathanail made it a priority to hire NAIT graduates.
“A lot of programming was done by teleprompter. TSN and CBC Newsworld were launched as the first two specialty programs in Canada that required live captioning. Those two contracts put us on the map.”
“A lot of programming was done by teleprompter,” explains Nathanail. “TSN and CBC Newsworld were launched as the first two specialty programs in Canada that required live captioning. Those two contracts put us on the map.”
Nathanail set the bar high early on, so much so that other companies simply weren’t able to compete with their level of accuracy and quality—and she seized the opportunity to expand the business.
National Captioning Canada, now headquartered in Calgary, is the largest Canadian-based provider of live closed captioning. With more than 100 employees working from home studios across Canada, the company provides 1,800 hours of closed captioning and real-time transcription services a week for news, sports, political commentary, entertainment and government proceedings. Their clients include major broadcasters across the country like Rogers, Bell, Shaw and the CBC, as well as the Alberta Legislature and the House of Commons.
Evolving with the industry
Today, Nathanail has assumed more of a CEO role and has recently hired more schedulers to ensure the right captioners are assigned the right broadcasts. The company experiences low turnover because captioners are given assignments that match their particular skill level as well as their personal lifestyle in order to foster a healthy work-life balance.
Experienced captioners cover all types of live broadcasts, such as elections, sports and news. For these shifts, they prepare by inputting relevant names and content into their dictionaries. For example, if it is a live sports event, the captioner inputs roster, on-air personalities and terminology from the particular sport being played.
In 2016, Nathanail launched a new captioning service that provides simultaneous translation, primarily used for offline or pre-programmed captioning. The service is referred to as ‘voice writing’ or ‘respeaking’ and involves a specially trained captioner repeating what is being spoken into a computer that translates the spoken word to English. To accommodate their growing roster of voice writers, National Captioning Canada recently moved to a 3,500-square-foot space with specially built sound booths.
Supporting the community
Despite the demands of running a successful business, Nathanail has made it her priority to give back to the community. National Captioning Canada supports an annual scholarship to NAIT’s Court Reporting program. They also match employee donations during the Christmas holiday season and donate over 30 hours of closed captioning for local telethons a year.
Additionally, Nathanail and her employees have travelled to Mexico to build houses for families in need through Youth with a Mission. They support local organizations including the Mustard Seed, Inn from the Cold, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and the Canadian Hearing Society.
Distinguished Alumni Award 2017
For her outstanding career as an entrepreneur and her support of the community, Rena Nathanail was presented the Distinguished Alumni Award in May 2017.