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Live TV could be delayed to improve subtitles suggests Ofcom

The communications regulator has criticised the quality of subtitling on live TV shows, proposing a short time delay to improve things.

Ofcom has criticised the quality of subtitling on live TV shows, proposing a short time delay to improve the situation.

"Viewers have made clear that there are continuing problems with the speed, synchronisation, accuracy and presentation of live TV subtitling," the UK communications regulator says. It's asking broadcasters what they would think of "the feasibility of delaying live programmes for a short period of time (perhaps a few seconds) in order to improve the quality of live subtitling."

That would mean the subtitler would see the football match or news report live and have a couple of seconds to correct an automatic transcription before it was broadcast.

The main barriers to understanding include delays between words being said and subtitles appearing, technical errors causing subtitles to freeze, and mistakes in transcription such as the howlers pictured above -- real mistakes that appeared on Loose Women and BBC weather.

"Ofcom wants to see an improvement in the quality of subtitling on live programmes for people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing," said Ofcom exec Claudio Pollack. "Our proposals will help identify the areas where broadcasters can make progress, leading to a better viewing experience over time."

Subtitling is hugely popular in the UK, Ofcom claiming 7.6 million adults say they've used it, although only 1.4 million of them have a hearing impairment. If broadcasters attract a viewing share of more than 0.05 per cent then by law they must provide subtitles, as long as it's not too expensive. Subtitling for pre-recorded TV is much better than live, as it can be edited for errors and properly synched with the images.

Do you think subtitling should be improved? Do you have any particularly abysmal or hilarious examples? Would you mind having live TV delayed a little? Transcribe your thoughts in the comments below, or over on our hard-of-thinking Facebook page.