Measuring caption quality: our white paper

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Tuesday, 25 March 2014 09:56am

Media Access Australia today released a white paper entitled Caption quality: International approaches to standards and measurement. It focuses on issues surrounding the live captioning of TV programs, the difficulties in measuring caption quality effectively, and some of the solutions that have been proposed. 

The white paper, which is the first in a planned series, was written by our Project manager for television, Chris Mikul, and sponsored by Red Bee Media Australia.

“Over the last decade or so, there has been a significant increase in captioning levels in Australia and other countries,” said Mikul. “And that means there are a lot more programs being captioned live than there used to be. Inevitably, you don’t you don’t get the same quality with live captions that you do with captions that are pre-prepared and precisely timed. The challenge with live captioning is to produce the best captions possible under difficult circumstances.” 

The paper compares and contrasts the captioning standards that communications regulators have adopted in Australia, the UK, Canada, France and Spain. It also looks at the methods used for captioning news and current affairs programs and how they have evolved over the years.

“One of the biggest problems that regulators, broadcasters and caption providers face is finding an appropriate way to measure the quality of live captions,” said Mikul. “There’s no point just counting the number of times the captions differ from dialogue. In some cases, the captioner has deliberately left words out so that the captions can be more easily understood, while some errors are much more serious than others.” The paper examines some of the quality measurement models which have been developed to deal with these issues.

Finally, the paper make recommendations that Media Access Australia believes will lead to improvements in the quality of live captioning.

“Red Bee Media Australia welcomes this discussion and is very pleased to support the important work of Media Access Australia,” said Chris Howe, Managing Director of Red Bee Media Australia. “This white paper is a timely and substantial contribution to the international discussion about caption quality standards.”     

Mikul is optimistic about the future. “The technology is improving, and regulators are taking a greater interest in captioning issues and being proactive about dealing with them. I think the way forward is for regulators, broadcasters and caption providers to talk to each other, and do more practical experimentation into measuring caption quality and new live captioning techniques. And involve consumers in all of that, too, of course.”

Download the white paper:

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