Ofcom today announced proposals to improve the quality of subtitling on UK TV to benefit deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.
Subtitles are used by over a million people with hearing impairments to watch TV. While pre-prepared subtitling is generally of a good quality, viewers have made clear that there are continuing problems with the speed, synchronisation, accuracy and presentation of live TV subtitling.
Examples of errors in live subtitling
The images used below are based on actual errors in live TV programming. Problems with live subtitling
Ofcom engaged with hearing-impaired viewers and bodies that represent their interests to understand their experiences of live subtitling, and also considered available research. As a result, Ofcom found that the main problems are:
presentation - whether subtitles are shown scrolling across the screen or in more readable blocks containing one or more sentences.
To help address these issues, Ofcom has published proposals for consultation aimed at improving live subtitling to provide a better viewing experience for people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Proposals to improve live subtitling
Under the current rules, TV broadcasters that attract a certain audience level must provide subtitles and they have to provide information to Ofcom on the amount of subtitling they provide. While the current rules have resulted in high levels of subtitling across a range of channels, Ofcom is now proposing they also report on the quality of their subtitles.
This would help by highlighting problem areas and incentivising broadcasters to make improvements. It would also enable viewers to monitor what progress is being made by each broadcaster to improve quality of live subtitles.
Therefore, Ofcom is proposing to publish reports every six months on:
Ofcom is also asking broadcasters and others for views on 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.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom Consumer Group Director, said: "Ofcom wants to see an improvement in the quality of subtitling on live programmes for people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. Our proposals will help identify the areas where broadcasters can make progress, leading to a better viewing experience over time."
Ofcom’s consultation closes on 25 July 2013. ENDS