Deaf News: Delays in live subtitling to reduce dramatically on BBC channels this summer

Posted on June 2, 2016

The BBC’s Research and Development department, working with Ericsson, have today announced a new approach to live subtitling which will reduce the delays between words being spoken and appearing on screen.

The new approach to subtitles will be rolled out on BBC channels this summer.

Deaf viewers regularly complain that long delays before subtitles appear on screen during live news broadcasts, entertainment shows or sports events make following those programmes much more difficult.

The new approach appears to use a delay during the workflow of a programme to allow subtitles to appear much earlier on screen during broadcasts.

Deaf viewers will no doubt be watching closely this summer to see how much of a difference the new approach makes.

The press release says:

Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) today unveiled its latest innovation in live captioning, developed in partnership with BBC Research & Development (BBC R&D) – a new, world-first approach that significantly reduces latency in live-captioning.

Until now, live captions for television are typically displayed on screen later than the audio that they represent. The latency is caused by the necessary workflow to create live captions. This latency can be frustrating for audiences and has been subject to regulatory attention both in the UK and around the world.

Ericsson has partnered with BBC R&D to devise the new approach which minimizes the delay between live captions and the audio they represent by utilizing the time taken to compress the audio and video streams for transmission and distribution. As captions take less time to encode, a compensating delay is used to ensure pre-prepared, accurately authored captions are synchronized with the audio. During programs with live captions, this compensating delay can be decreased, which significantly reduces the apparent delay of the live captions.

Ericsson and BBC R&D have completed a successful proof of concept and the new approach will begin a phased roll out across the BBC’s portfolio of channels from summer 2016. Ericsson will also offer this service to clients globally to improve the viewing experience of audiences around the world.

Thorsten Sauer, Head of Broadcast and Media Services, Ericsson, says: “The inherent latency of live caption delivery is a challenge for broadcasters the world over. Our aim has been to improve this experience by leveraging our significant expertise in both language services as well as compression and our overall research in the media space. Together with the BBC we believe we have made some very significant advancements in the delivery and quality of live captioning and set a new bar for the future of the industry.”

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