Ofcom on the State of Captioning in the UK

The next report on the state of captioning from UK broadcasting watchdog Ofcom is due in April 2015. Reporting since 2013, Ofcom says that the industry has made great progress since then for the accuracy and timing for captioning of pre-recorded programs.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for live programming.

Pre-recorded programs leave an opportunity for captioners to correct and fine-tune their captions.  Live captioning, as seen mostly on the news, sporting events, weather and other programs requires an entirely different set up: a person with good ears, a clear speaking voice and specially ‘trained’ voice recognition software. These live captioners sit in a soundproofed room, watching the TV feed and re-speak the words from the program clearly and deliberately into a microphone. The computer, which over time has come to more accurately recognize the live captioner’s voice, then translates their spoken words into text on screen.

Some TV viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing are left baffled by captions. There are still serious recognition errors in the captioning software which led to mistakes such as the phrase “be given to our toddlers” translated as “be given to ayatollahs”, or “sources” becoming “sauces” and “they need a mum” mistakenly captioned as “they need a man”.  Former Manchester United player Patrice “Evra” was replaced by a “zebra”.  In situations when live information is extremely important, like weather events or football matches, these mistakes becoming very frustrating.

The BBC is working on new automated captioning technology – but for now, the method, while not infallible, is still the best method available.

Weather Report overlapping an ad.  Wales did not die.
















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