Accuracy of TV subtitling in the UK

Following numerous complaints, Ofcom, the communications regulator in the UK, organized a series of four exercises to establish the quality of live subtitling on national television and the latest results were published at the end of last month.

The assessments were based on programming from BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky and tested for accuracy, latency and speed of the live subtitling. Accuracy, for instance, was rated at 98,55% in the fourth and final assessment. Some challenges, however, were brought to the surface, especially with regards to frequent technical problems (that have sources stemming from both consumer equipment and broadcasters), and trade-offs between accuracy and speed of subtitling.

Another positive aspect from this exercise is that, since the reports have been published, the broadcasters have been engaging in discussions on how to improve their channels’ subtitling. BBC, for instance, is “exploring a new approach that would take advantage of delays inherent in the processes for video, audio and subtitling – so-called ‘switchable delays’ – to reduce the latency of subtitles significantly”.

The outcome of their research is expected to be published in the beginning of next year, but you can find the document for the fourth assessment here.

Additional Sources: Ofcom’s Quality of live subtitling reportsOfcom