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How to Overcome Closed Caption Challenges

Technologies for Worship’s 2nd Annual How-To issue will be released shortly – in the meantime, here’s just a taste of what you can expect…

by Colin Blake

ccThe U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) long ago began enacting laws to address captions, and other government entities around the world have done the same. In the U.S., the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act regulates closed captioning for anyone broadcasting content to viewers in the United States, whether by standard over-the-air distribution or over IP. A more recent FCC ruling took captions into the Internet realm, saying that TV networks and video websites must provide closed captions for any TV content available online. The ruling means that, with certain exceptions, any video content that has aired on TV must also have closed captions when streamed online. FCC regulations have also evolved to include requirements for caption correctness, completeness, and timing, and pending review are additional regulations for any video clip being distributed over a streaming service.

When an issue is reported, the burden of proof is on the broadcaster to show that there were no problems. The rules affect every device, website, distributor, producer, and network that carries long-form broadcast content. Houses of worship are no exception. Any church distributing programming via a television broadcast channel — there are close to 30 such churches in the United States alone — is subject to closed captioning regulations. If the church is distributing that same programming over streaming solutions, then it is subject to further regulation as described above. Failure to comply could result not only in fines and penalties, but also in a lower quality of experience for worshippers and a barrier to receiving the church’s message. Though closed captioning doesn’t apply to all ministries now, it will become more and more relevant as churches grow and technologies evolve, such as distribution through OTT providers.

If your house of worship uses the airwaves and the Internet to reach people, then you must track caption quality and maintain compliance records. Even in countries where it is not required, caption monitoring is important because statistics show that more than 13 percent of people are deaf or hearing impaired. But caption monitoring is easier said than done. It takes significant time and resources to monitor a program properly for captions. The only surefire method is for humans to watch and listen to the program in real time. (The same applies to language identification and video description). It’s a cumbersome, labor-intensive process that is prone to errors and, based on the amount of programming being produced, costly and impractical. As an alternative, some houses of worship have been manually spot-checking their programs, but that method is by no means foolproof and will no longer be sufficient to meet the additional regulatory standards for completeness, accuracy, synchronicity, and placement.

The ideal solution for maintaining caption compliance is an automated tool that monitors content continuously within a complete, broadcast-specific quality control workflow. The key to continuous monitoring is audio analysis, a method of automatically analyzing speech and comparing that to the caption file to determine if there are missing or incorrect captions and if the captions are properly aligned.

A QC tool based on audio analysis and speech recognition technology — and focused on captions, video descriptions, languages, and caption timing — can be applied at any point in the process, from ingest through playout and beyond, to minimize errors and ensure compliance. With this type of QC solution, you can be assured that the right caption file appears against the right media in the right language, and that it is properly timed.

A tool exists that verifies that the captions aired matches the program broadcast and determines the level of caption coverage for the program, flagging instances where captions are missing, incorrect, or out of sync. Some solutions also feature automated caption retiming, which retimes live captions for subsequent use and frame-rate conversion.

In addition to checking closed caption accuracy, some tools can repair misaligned caption files by comparing the timecodes of the words spoken in the audio track to the timecodes in the caption file. From there, adjustments are made automatically to the timecodes in the caption file so that the captions are aligned with the spoken words, returning a new caption file that’s ready for distribution.

To check for closed caption compliance, some automated tools start by identifying the primary spoken language of the program audio and the caption text. If the languages match, the application then verifies that the caption text matches the program audio and whether the caption timing is correct.

There are many QC solutions available, but the key is to find one made for broadcast and IP workflows that automatically validates and aligns video descriptions and subtitles, identifies language, and helps you determine where in the life of the asset a problem originates — all so that it can be corrected before it hits the airwaves or the Internet.

Closed captions might be a “mega church” problem right now, but as other churches grow and extend their reach, and embrace technological tools such as Internet broadcasting to multiple devices, they will also face the caption challenge. With automated QC built for broadcast, any house of worship, large or small, with one or multiple delivery platforms, can assure compliance more easily and efficiently than ever before. Just as important, they can be sure their messages are loud and clear for all worshippers.

Colin Blake is the Senior Sales Engineer, Nexidia Media & Entertainment.