UK regulator releases caption quality report

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 10:19am

The UK communications regulator Ofcom has released the third of four planned reports on the quality of live captioning on television.

Girl watching television

Ofcom commenced its caption quality measurement project in in 2013, and the first two reports were published in 2014. The reports are based on samples of news and entertainment programs broadcast by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky.

The findings of the latest report include the following positive outcomes:

  • Broadcasters are making extensive use of pre-prepared block captions (captions that appear one or two lines at a time) in programs that are otherwise captioned live.
  • Most programs exceeded Ofcom’s target of 98 per cent accuracy.
  • There was a significant reduction in the amount of pre-recorded programs with live captioning.
  • There was a modest reduction in captioning outages caused by technical problems.

On the downside, the report found that the median latency of live captions (the time lag between words spoken on screen and the corresponding captions appearing) was 5.1 seconds, which is more than Ofcom’s target of three seconds. The speed of live captions on some programs also exceeded Ofcom’s recommended speed of 180 words per minute, making them potentially difficult to read.

The final report is due to be published in October 2015, after which Ofcom will decide whether there should be any change to captioning guidelines.

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