Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fighting the Craptions

Our family has been consuming captions for almost ten years now. I've written about it before, and I'm happy to report that things are getting better in the world of captions. Netflix is doing pretty well on the captioning front. We even have a semi-local movie theater that has open captioned showings of new releases. It's far and away better than the tricky three-line digital receiver box jammed into the theater seat cup holder.

Still, bad captions exist. They're called "craptions" which is a little too cute for as annoying as they are. Activists are working hard to educate content creators about how and why they should create accurate captions for every video. There's even a #nomorecraptions campaign.

You can buy t-shirts and hoodies to show your support for the 
#NoMoreCraptions campaign and to bring captions to YouTube!
"I would buy this" to be notified of the campaign's next print run.


On the spectrum of bad captions, YouTube is a major offender. If you upload a video without captions, YouTube will auto-generate captions. Here's what YouTube says about "automatic captioning:"

Captions are a great way to make content accessible for viewers. YouTube can use speech recognition technology to automatically create captions for your videos. These automatic captions are generated by machine learning algorithms, so the quality of the captions may vary. 

By "the quality of the captions may vary," they mean that sometimes the auto-captions are great. Other times they're laughably incorrect. Sometimes they print dirty words on the screen that are nothing close to what was said in the audio. In short, you might not want to turn these on at all until you're ready for your sweet child to learn four-letter words.

YouTube content creators can edit the auto-generated captions to correct these errors if they take some time to review the captions on each video. They can also use Rev to have professional captions generated by real human beings. The YouTubers just need to commit to better captions. That's what the #nomorecaptions awareness campaign above is hoping to achieve. 

Network TV

Big networks are still struggling to provide quality captions everywhere. We watch late night comedy on YouTube using each show's channel. The captions work well enough on YouTube. We watch SNL using the NBC app on Roku and those captions are very inaccurate. They paraphrase and just plain get it wrong sometimes.

Commercials are mostly uncaptioned across all platforms.

Fight the Craptions

The #nomorecraptions campaign suggests sending an email or leaving a comment on YouTube channels that don't provide accurate captions. They note that you should expect to be told to turn on the auto-generated captions owing to the fact that said YouTuber has never looked at the auto-generated captions. 

The FCC provides a complaint mechanism for inadequate captioning. 

NCI (http://www.ncicap.org/viewer-resources/viewer-faq/#C11) provides the following advice about filing a complaint:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued rules about closed captioning, and they have established a complaint process. Before you proceed, be sure your own equipment is in good working order.
You should first complain in writing to your programming distributor (i.e., your cable or satellite TV service, or the TV station if you do not pay for cable, satellite, or another subscription video service). If you are paying for cable or satellite television service, your provider is responsible for resolving any captioning problems even if the problems might be in the program feed they are receiving. Check your provider’s Website about who to contact regarding captioning problems or look up the contact using this Website. Complaints that are polite and specific with complete details are the most effective.
Keep a record of your complaint. If the problem is not resolved, then you can file a complaint with the FCC. There are a number of rules for filing complaints, so you should read and follow them to be sure your complaint will be considered. Your complaint has to be very specific (date, time, stations affected, etc.). Click on this link to see the FCC’s closed captioning guide, which includes information about filing closed captioning complaints. NOTE: The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) suggests that you submit your complaint to the FCC at the same time as you notify your service provider so that the FCC gets a better understanding of the types of problems people are having with captioning.
Here's a direct link to the FCC caption complaint center: https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/requests/new?ticket_form_id=36040

Awareness of the need for accurate captioning is growing. Don't accept the craptions!