Canada leads on bilingual caption quality

Monday, 5 December 2011 09:56am

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has approved a set of mandatory standards for French-language closed captions on TV programs. Areas covered by the standards include accuracy of captions on pre-recorded and live programs, acceptable time lag for live captions, and captioning of emergency announcements.

In 2007, the CRTC mandated 100% captioning of programs other than commercials and promos. It also instructed the Canadian Association of Broadcasters to establish caption working groups for the English-language and French-language markets. The new standards adopt the recommendations of the French-language Closed Captioning Group. The CRTC released these recommendations in August, and requested comments from interested parties.

The new standards include the following:

  • For pre-recorded programs, captions should have an accuracy rate of 100%, including spelling.
  • For live programs, captions must have an accuracy rate of at least 85%, averaged over the program.
  • The lag between the audio and the captions appearing on screen on live programs must not exceed 5 seconds, averaged over the program.
  • If programs in the categories of ‘News’ and ‘Reporting and Actualities’ are captioned live, any errors in the captions must be corrected before the program is re-broadcast,  if the time between the first and second broadcasts is equal to at least twice the duration of the program.
  • Broadcasters are required to provide all information in emergency alerts in both vocal and written formats, and insert captions in their programming as soon as possible.

In Australia, the Federal Government’s Media Access Review final report instructed the Australian Communications and Media Authority to host workshops and develop criteria for assessing caption quality. Media Access Australia is taking part in these workshops, with amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act regarding caption quality expected become law in 2012.

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