US access provider releases caption quality survey results

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Wednesday, 12 January 2011 16:59pm

The WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) has now released the results of a survey of caption viewers who were presented with examples of cpationing errors and asked to rate them according to how they affected their comprehension.

The survey was part of NCAM's development of a prototype automated assessment system for live captioning (including the captioning of news programs). The first stage of this process was to determine the relative severity of different sorts of errors.

Over 300 caption viewers took part in the online survey, the majority of whom were Deaf or hearing impaired. Each was asked to evaluate 41 samples of caption errors, comprising 17 different error types. Garbled captions resulting from transmission problems received the highest ranking (84% of respondents rated these as severe), followed by incorrect and garbled words, incorrect words with similar sounds, and dropped words. Prior to taking the survey, only 6% of viewers said they thought captions on news programs were ‘generally accurate’.

The quality of live captioning on television has also been raised as an issue by caption users in Australia. In the final report of its Media Access Review, released last December, the Government has recommended that the Broadcasting Services Act be amended to include a reference to captions being of ‘adequate quality’, while the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is to develop criteria which it can use to assess caption quality.

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