BBC explains 'Nigel Owens is a gay' subtitling error

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Nigel Owens referees the Scotland v England Six Nations gameImage source, BBC Sport
Image caption,
The mistaken caption

The BBC has explained why the sentence "Nigel Owens is a gay" was shown on its subtitling service during coverage of the Scotland v England rugby game.

The Welsh international referee, who has spoken of his "coming out" ordeal, had just awarded Scotland a penalty in Saturday's 25-13 Six Nations win.

Although commentator Andrew Cotter had said, "Nigel Owens is saying", voice recognition software mistakenly produced the "gay" reference.

BBC Sport quickly corrected the error.

Image source, BBC Sport
Image caption,
The corrected text

"Our live subtitling service produces accuracy levels in excess of 98%," BBC Sport said in a statement.

"But, as with all broadcasters, there are instances - particularly during live broadcasts - when mistakes happen.

"On this occasion the voice recognition subtitling software made an error which was spotted and corrected immediately."

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During the BBC One and online coverage of the Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield, which had an estimated 5.5m TV million viewers, the BBC did correct the caption immediately to read: "Nigel Owens is saying penalty and yellow card".

Owens, from Mynyddcerrig in Carmarthenshire, is the most-capped international rugby referee and has officiated at three Rugby World Cups, including the 2015 final between New Zealand and Australia. He became the first openly gay man to referee at the highest level.

The BBC brought in subtitling in the early 1980s to allow deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers to follow programmes via a transcript of the TV soundtrack.

Media caption,

Nigel Owens - The Greatest Hits!

Media caption,

Nigel Owens: Referee gives ball boy a yellow card