We're All Ears Blog

Are TV captions keeping up with the needs of the hearing loss community?

When we asked our Facebook audience for their thoughts on subtitles and captions, we were overwhelmed with the response. From people calling them “lifesavers” to others demanding immediate improvements, it seems the subject is one that deserves a closer look at.

Currently, captions are required for all shows between 6am and midnight on the five main Australian free-to-air channels. The only exception to this rule is foreign language programs where this is not currently required. In addition to these timing rules, all news or current affairs programs on free-to-air TV should also be captioned at all times.

While pre-recorded shows normally have fairly accurate captions, it’s live programming that often falls a bit behind. There is commonly a lag on the captions and errors are more likely to slip through when it comes to spelling and sentence structure. In fact, live television captioning was a hot topic for our Facebook community.

Karyn says “Subtitles are my lifeline to TV, but live shows and subtitles do not go together which is understandable but frustrating.” Her feelings are shared by Loretta who says “it’s very difficult to watch News at 6pm as captions are so far behind the newsreader that captions can stop mid-story.”

It’s not just the accuracy that can be an issue, sometimes their positioning on the screen can distract from the visuals. As Nola noted “Watching sport is a pain because they put them across the middle of the screen where the player? is on.” In these instances, it is often best to turn off the captions to get the full picture.

One of our favourite responses though, came from Amanda who can see the funnier side of things: “Thank God for subtitles, they saved my sanity. And sometimes they are hilarious when they’re wrong!!”

How do you feel about captions? Let us know in the comments.

Featured