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12.29.2003
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Closed Captioning service needs improvement

TV audiences think closed captioning of television programs is important, but feel the service needs improvement, a new study has found.

The NCI Foundation, the public service, educational outreach, and fundraising branch of the nonprofit National Captioning Institute, announced the results of a recent study on the state of closed captioning in the U.S.

Conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, the survey found that while audiences are aware of closed captioning and think it is important, they also believe that captions contain too many mistakes or move at a pace that is not comfortable to read.

More than 50 percent of respondents indicated that they have had difficulty understanding missing or scrambled captions and more than 33 percent indicated difficulty due to the captions moving too quickly.

In terms of genre, the captioning on local news was identified as having the poorest quality. Evaluations of local and national news programs indicate that viewers experience greater difficulty understanding their captions than they do with other types of television programming. In particular, respondents most often complained that at times there is no captioning and the captioning that exists is garbled, delayed or does not reflect what reporters are saying, particularly during live broadcasts.

Further frustrations related to a lack of information about which programs are captioned and the possibility that federal funds to support closed captioning might be withdrawn. Researchers had difficulty finding an accurate source of information about whether programs were captioned, short of actually viewing the programs.

The broadcast industry data indicated that they receive very little feedback from closed captioning users, suggesting that viewers are unaware of how to complain about closed captioning quality. In addition, the broadcast industry is concerned about the future of closed captioned programs because Senate Bill 1248 (IDEA) may limit how federal funds may be applied to support closed captioning programs.

The NCI Foundation estimates that more than 100 million Americans benefit from captioned programming. These audiences include 28 million people who are deaf or hard of hearing, children and adults learning to read, and those learning English as a second language.

For more information, visit: www.ncicap.org.

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