TV with the Sound Off- Irritating Captioning

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TV with the Sound Off- Irritating Captioning

Arirang TV manager, Kim Tae-jong commented that they are increasingly more corporate program buyers asking if they are any captions before deciding to go ahead with their order. What the Arirang manager is referring to is not the closed-captioning for the deaf or for those learning English nor subtitles in foreign language films. What Kim is referring to is the growing trend in Korean as well as Japanese television programs that have captioning similar to what one might find in a comic book- reproducing almost every word spoken on the screen regardless of if it is necessary or not.

Kim, like other broadcast managers in charge of programming sales and exports, is becoming more vexed by this trend in TV, with a sigh commenting that "to program buyers, this irritating captioning is nothing but that. Irritating. When we are fortunate to be able to offer a 'clean' program without captions, we usually run into no problems selling it. Yet, most programs are not 'clean'".

Captions covering the screen are emerging as a major hinderance in seliing TV programs, not only domestically but abroad as well.

Usually, a 50 minute-long entertainment TV program may have 6 to 7,000 words appearing on the screen during the entire program's running time. Viewers would still be able to understand what was happening even with no sound because the captions would be 'reporting' almost every single sentence said. This blanketing in captions are not confined to just entertainment programs; this epidemic has now spread to programs covering more refined culture performances and news show documentaries. Producers are placing captions on the screen to reprouce, for example, the telephone interviews of news shows regardless of the actual voice quality.

The reason why producers are adhering to captions is that broadcast station managers believe that they keep viewers tuned in. If an industry insider is correct, producers not worrying about the audience viewing numbers do not usually resort to using captions. It is widely held that captions are the easiest way to grab the viewing audience's attention. However, this is in contrast to the general anti-caption sentiment coming from people fed up with watching caption after caption most devoid of meaning, sometimes useless.

A person with ArirangTV commented that in the U.S. and the Europe Union, leading sellers of TV programming, few if any programs use these captions. Only Japan is similar to Korea in their use of these captions. "Yet, like their Korean counterparts, it's very rare to find Japanese programs benefiting from having captions on the program screens," said the Arirang spokesperson.

by Kang Chan-ho

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