The UK watchdog group Ofcom has announced a new bid to monitor the quality of closed captions on British TV. The private group bills itself as a “communications regulator” and is an authority for communications-related topics in the UK, including broadcast TV, the web, mobile and fixed telephones, and even the post.
The campaign will not involve direct evaluation of the captions by Ofcom, but will instead require broadcasters to measure and report on the quality of their captions every six months for two years. Ofcom will then examine and publish the results of these reports. Criteria for quality captions include numbers of errors, type of errors, speed, and latency (“lag” between audio and caption display), and will be evaluated for both realtime and offline captioning. Ofcom is also asking broadcasters to report technical difficulties in their captioning.
Currently there are no penalties or incentives in place beside the publication of a positive or negative report. The announcement comes in response to complaints about poor captioning — referred to as “subtitling” — by some of Britain’s 1 million deaf and hard-of-hearing population. The campaign will begin in 2014.