High quality automatic captioning isn’t just about reducing cost – it’s about bringing certainty and reassurance to broadcast operations and audiences during uncertain times.

Automatic Real-time Captioning (ARC)
Automatic Real-time Captioning (ARC)

In times of uncertainty we turn to our TV screens. We turn to them to see what global leaders are saying, what the experts are thinking, what other people like us are doing and experiencing. It’s all a way of understanding a radically changed world, of orienting ourselves to that change, and to answer the question: what should I be doing, for me and for those close to me?

Closed captioning isn’t just about the important function of ensuring deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences have access to vital news. As part of our daily lives, all our media consumption is now mostly taking place within the four walls of our homes. Straining to hear over the energetic noises of locked down children, keeping it peaceful while you’re doing your from-home yoga, even keeping an eye on the news while you work from your new home office. The environment in which we consume media has compressed; access to information needs to work in a way that accepts and works with that new normal.

Good quality captions provide that option and ensure that information reaches people no matter the context – they increase our understanding, make it easier to orient ourselves and find out what to do, as well as reduce the worry: we feel happier when we have access to, and fully understand the information we need. We can see what’s happening, read what’s being said, and understand the world around us. A world that seems so distant at a time of reduced movement and public contact.

At the same time as news got more important, the challenges of managing its delivery got greater. Key delivery staff may not be able to be in the same physical space, costs may need to be managed more carefully and schedules may change more rapidly. As in all other aspects of this moment, uncertainty makes us desire certainty, safety, quality and reassurance.

Which brings us to Automatic Realtime Captioning, or ARC, by Red Bee Media.

ARC – switch it on when you need it, switch it off when you don’t. Breaking news? A vital press conference? You don’t want to be searching around for the resources required to ensure audiences and local communities get the information they need. ARC has a remote control, accessed via your phone or laptop, so if you’re responsible for the captioning, you can switch it on and off from your home, without having to worry about being on site.

ARC is low cost. It makes the best use of AI and automated technologies to deliver captions at a price any station can afford, especially at a time when we’re all trying to make sure we don’t carry any unnecessary running costs.

ARC is a bridge to the technology of the future, which builds from a solid base of Red Bee experience and knowledge. As captioning and accessibility experts, we know the importance of getting communication right. That’s why we’ve created ARC, bridging the gap to the future technology of automatic captioning from the firm base of our long history of operational knowhow and service delivery. We aim to ensure maximum possible accuracy: topical wordlists reinforce crucial names, places, brands and vocabulary, style rules provide peace of mind that channel and station branding will always come out correctly, as well as ensuring consistency of style, spelling and number formatting.

As with much of the current moment, we’re thinking not just about now, but about the future. How the way we meet the challenges now can shows us about how we meet the challenges of the future.

If I were to make one observation about the core technology of Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) since we started measuring, tracking and using it a few years ago, it is that it has consistently outstripped my expectations. Initially I would say to people “it’s not as good as human captioning, but it’s getting there”, then after a spectacular 24/7 live demo at NAB in Las Vegas last year, and doing stringent quality checks, we were able to say “for content like news it often matches human captioning”. Now, looking at internal testing of our most highly optimized release of ARC yet, it’s clearly up there with human captioning – with similar quality variations. It’s ready.

Tom Wootton, Head of Product – Access Services, Red Bee Media