Bad Captioning “If senior politicians were to take a stand and not appear on television unless it was captioned, frankly they would struggle to get air time”

Some people ask me if I ever see bad captioning in New Zealand? I guess it depends on your definition!

In New Zealand there is very little live captioning so the type of error often seen overseas – such as the one reported this week by the Daily Mail in the UK warning Glastonbury visitors to be ‘prepared for rape’ rather than ‘rain’ is not often seen. Rape is no laughing matter and the BBC quickly corrected the error.

Bad captioning for me is more about there not being enough of it yet in New Zealand.

I would love to be debating getting the final 2% of broadcast television (public and commercial) to caption/subtitle. I would love to be having a debate about caption quality and acceptable delays etc on live broadcasts. The reality is we are a long way from that.

Aside from traditional TV there is the growing Video on Demand, and subscription Video on Demand sector. These also need to be captioned. Just this week Telecom has announced Lightbox. They have already told several on the New Zealand Captioning Working Group that they will not be captioning when they launch. Why is this acceptable? In fact now, lots of people all over New Zealand refer to the web for TV content and its not just New Zealand content they are chasing for, but thats another story.

Our senior politicians see fit to appear on television programmes aired without captions. Just this week Prime Minister Key has made numerous interview appearances on programmes aired without captions – including Q&A yesterday morning which is even made with NZ On Air funding. David Cunliffe has also made appearances on programmes without captions. If senior politicians were to take a stand and not appear on television unless it was captioned frankly they would struggle to get air time. Even pre-recorded sections of many political programmes in New Zealand are not captioned – Back Benches is an example of this.

According to the twittersphere, #NZQT (Parliamentary Question Time for those of you who don’t tweet), is a lively debate. Parliament TV is not captioned and the Government Administration committee have run a trial on live captioning. We look forward to the implementation of this permanently by the end of the next parliamentary term perhaps.

But in the interim Deaf, HOH and many others who simply need to see a replay of something from Parliament refer to the web. Its not unusual to see captions errors in the captioning left to the YouTube robots on the Parliamentary TV channel. Some of these are less than complimentary and even un-lady like so I will refrain from repeating them.

Its bad enough that the Parliamentary TV channel is not captioned when broadcast live on air. Its just pure laziness that the captioning provided online is left to Youtube robots, who actually when the speaker is very very clear, do a fair amount of the work quite well. All it takes is a little care from the team who publish them to correct what the robots cannot decipher. Why not start tomorrow?

Let me be clear, I do not believe that the need for captioning is a political issue. I have said that from the very outset of my work with this campaign. Its all about ACCESS, and making sure that all New Zealanders, regardless of their political persuasion, have access to form their own opinions, be entertained and informed. Its also a business issue. Failure to caption excludes a section of consumers who increasingly will have other choices.

So back to bad captioning in New Zealand? What is it?

1. Not enough captioning on TV

2. No or lazy captioning of online/on demand/streamed content – even by our own Parliament

3. Failure to legislate for captioning in Broadcasting & Telecommunications Acts enabling even more providers to do the first!

The Minister of Broadcasting wants to encourage captioning. They and he better get on with it.

Which reminds me, I must hunt down a speech from the Minister of Broadcasting to see what the Youtube robots make of him.

I will look on Youtube, because I am sure as the Minister of Broadcasting encouraging captioning he will make a stand and won’t appear on TV that is uncaptioned (so that leaves out most political programmes, and TV News).

– Helen MacKay

Links for Reference:

BBC Error

To turn captions on and off on Youtube

To caption a video on Youtube

See an Index of all our Captioning Blogs here.