Let’s Talk: Do you watch TV with captions? 17

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Closed Captions (CCs) have changed the way many Australians engage with their TVs. For some, it’s a simple convenience. For others, it’s an absolute necessity.

By law, the five major free-to-air channels must offer captioning on shows broadcast 6pm and midnight. This ensures those with hearing loss can still access all prime-time news, current affairs and entertainment.

But practically every Australian has benefited at one point or another from captioning – whether quietly watching in a doctor’s waiting room, or casually working around background noise at home.

This raises a vital question: is our current closed captioning service good enough?

Our partners at We’re All Ears recently asked readers in the hearing loss community how satisfied they were with captioning. The response was passionate and diverse.

For many, it was an essential tool for keeping up with the world. But many felt the delivery itself left something to be desired.

It only takes a few seconds of captioned live TV to realise things are far from perfect, with several seconds of delay. This can be a major concern when it comes to following news or sports coverage.

Rather than making comprehension easier, the lag between delivery and caption often confuse matters further. Add to this the occasional mistakes and gaps, and it’s clear there’s room for improvement.

Today we’d like to extend this important discussion to Starts at 60 readers:

Do you rely on closed captions to watch TV? Is it necessary, or a simple convenience? And is this service good enough for your needs?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


This conversation is sponsored by Connect Hearing. It was written as we feel it delivers valuable insights into a health topic important to the Starts at 60 community. For more information, please visit the Connect Hearing website or call 1300 362 231.





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  1. We have used Closed Captioning from its first appearance in Australia, and in those days it was called Teletext. My two children are deaf and it gave them a wonderful improvement in their tv-viewing pleasure. Now I am on my own I still use Closed Captions a lot. The reasons are: You can have the sound lower; they’re ideal for watching anything made where English is a bit hard to understand (e.g. Scotland, sorry); and you tend to remember things better, e.g. heights of mountains, or names of people. Live captioning is a bit hit-and-miss and it’s not so good for sport so I don’t bother with it then. My only complaint is I think it should be at the top of the screen as it often interferes with what’s going on down the bottom, especially with all the banners and watermarks going on these days.

  2. Yes my husband and I often turn on captions
    1) when there’s a lot of background noise like a war story / action movie / etc
    2) when the accents are hard to understand eg some movies set in regional areas of UK, USA, etc where the actors have strong regional accents.

  3. The captions flash on and off too quickly for me to read, so I rarely watch any television. It seems that the captions need to keep up with what the people are saying, which makes it difficult. Reading is not as quick hearing the words.

  4. I use CCs as I am hard of hearing, and have difficulty in following the sound on TV. I find that shows with in-built captions, (pre-recoreded shows) are excellent, mostly, and make viewing them quite pleasant. BUT live captioning is something that needs a bit of work. OK then, a Lot of work. sometime watching a live show with captions is so irritating because of the time delay that I mostly just turn it off and just watch the pictures. This makes watching shows like the news a bit of a waste of time, but I guess you just can’t have everything. I have often thought that as most of the news – and i suppose a lot of other shows are as well – use teleprompters for the newsreader/presenter to read from, why is it not now possible for the text on the teleprompter to be converted to subtext (captions) and so broadcast in sync with the spoken words? I don’t know how this would work, but surely it could be looked at?
    Other than that I find closed captions an absolute necessity, on account of my deafness.

    1 REPLY
    • I agree with Ric. I can’t understand why the captions are not pre-loaded when news reports are obviously scripted. It’s most annoying when the captions are so far behind the actual voice and what is going on on the screen. But I do get a good laugh from some of the glaring mistakes that are made — sometimes corrected but mostly not.

  5. I need CC,live captioning is shocking, mistake after mistake, also the time delay makes it very difficult to understand.With all the technology it is hard they can not do better.In some cases they don’t bother with the captions and to me it is nothing short of discrimination.

  6. I love Captions because I am partially deaf and I can have the T V volume low.
    However the news and current affairs shows r out of sync. The captions do not relate to the Pics
    SBS news is has the best Captions

  7. The music during most movies is very loud, so I turn on CC where possible to overcome this.

  8. I suffer from tinitus, crickets chirping 24/7
    So try and have the captions on whenever I watch TV
    It certainly needs an upgrade as the time lag makes it so very confusing.
    Sentences half written, gaps, then nothing then one sentence that is understandable.
    Thank goodness I still have reasonable hearing.
    So I try and watch things that supply the text with the picture.

  9. My TV viewing enjoyment has improved immensely since CC. I have only a slight hearing loss, but found I was missing a lot. I don’t have to strain to listen & can just sit back, relax, read & enjoy!!

  10. [email protected]

    I use cc all the time as I am hearing impaired. It is still far from perfect. It is not available 100 % of the time. It is often in the wrong place on the screen because the correct position is taken up with an ad or channel logo. It is impossible to watch sport with it as one misses the action. Live CC is often quite amusing as there are numerous mistakes. There is plenty of room for improvement.

  11. i’m with Kerry, now i use closed captions every time I can. Those Americans talk REALLY fast, though i don’t watch too many USA shows, and sadly , some of the British actors have begun to follow their example.You can spot the Shakespearean actors in a heart beat, beautiful diction, you can read their lips if you need to.

  12. I don’t watch any program except sport that does not CC as I find it hard to follow what they are saying because of my hearing loss. i think all programs should have CC especially those that are prerecorded. They really need to improve the delivery of CC on live programs as they lag behind what they are actually saying.

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