We’ve all seen those captioning bloopers that do the rounds on social media every now and then; and to be fair there are some really funny ones. And, as us deafies are not without a sense of humour, often we’ll see the funny side. But, joking apart, how does it make you feel when the captions are so badly wrong?
Here in the UK, I think we do pretty well for the availability of ‘subtitled television’. (In the UK, the term ‘subtitle’ is more commonly used than the term ‘caption’, despite there being a difference between the definitions.) The BBC is clearly committed to making shows accessible and the other main UK channels tend to also be quite good.
But where all channels come unstuck is with subtitling the news.
The worst I’ve found is Channel 4 news (which is unfortunate for me because it is my preferred news programme). The subtitles are so far behind and so often inaccurate that I do better by just lipreading and listening than by trying to make sense of the subtitles that are so far out of sync.
While I appreciate that the news goes out live, I assume that much of it is scripted and read from an autocue and the rest often includes pre-recorded footage, so I have to wonder why each of these sections could not have subtitles that are in sync with the speech. I accept that the in-studio debates will need subtitling live, but what about the rest?
In the UK, we have access to many +1 channels; that is to say, programmes being aired exactly one hour after being screened on the main channel. I feel that there is a great opportunity here for the likes of Channel 4 news to spend that hour getting the subtitles right and in sync for a fully accessible news show on Channel 4 +1. And for them to broadcast the programme from the previous hour but with new, improved subtitles. I for one would rather watch a coherent news show one hour later than struggle to follow the show live.
I notice that on BBC News 24, their pre-recorded news stories often do have pre-loaded subtitles and the show only reverts to live subtitles when they cut back to the studio — and even then, they seem in sync with the autocue. It would be great to see other news shows follow suit.
In this online community, we’re all about sharing so, please tell us: What are your experiences of subtitling where you live? What’s the most confusing or funniest blooper you’ve seen on a subtitle? How does it make you feel when the subtitles have lots of errors?