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Subtitles (Read 1293 times)
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Jan 2nd, 2022, 11:50pm
This is taken from Broadcast magazine:

It’s high time subtitles were mandatory across the board
By Scott Bryan, 21 December 2021

Improving accessibility for every viewer should be a requirement for all broadcasters, not an optional extra, says Scott Bryan

Subtitles are being used by way more people than you might think. A recent report by deaf-led charity Stagetext says that young viewers are four times more likely to switch on subtitles than older viewers, with 80% of 18 to 24 year-olds regularly using them.

I know what you’re thinking. Surely not that many? Subtitles are used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Autistic people, or those who have ADHD or auditory processing disorders (where you may have difficulty in understanding sounds) may find subtitles helpful, as well as people who don’t have English as a first language. But 80%? That’s a lot.

As well as viewers getting used to them thanks to Squid Game or Scandi Noir dramas, viewers see subtitles as a way to get more absorbed in drama and as an aid to deciphering inaudible words. Many also like the extra info: the title and artist of a song, or an unusual medical or forensics term.

Dramas full of fast-paced dialogue, such as Succession, have also contributed to their rise. Then there are parents who switch on subtitles because their children are noisy, or they don’t want to wake them, or because they believe it helps the kids learn.

Broadcasters are gaining confidence in featuring captions on screen too, with upcoming Channel 4 dating series The Language Of Love relying on them, as the show features daters who don’t speak the same language.

“Some might consider it brave to do a reality show that is extensively in a foreign language with subtitles, but we know viewers are quite comfortable with it,” says 2LE Media co-founder and show exec Tom Thostrup.

“A show like this might not have been picked up 10 or 20 years ago, when it was received wisdom that viewers found heavily subtitled content difficult.”

So why does it feel that audiences who rely on subtitles are often forgotten about or ignored?

The outage at Red Bee’s Broadcast Centre in September knocked C4’s subtitles off air for weeks. And it wasn’t just the outage that caused frustration, but the infrequent communication about when they would be restored.

At the time of writing (the end of November), subtitles had still not been fully restored to all shows on All 4. “We remain deeply concerned about the scale of the technical failures experienced by Channel 4 and the length of time taken to fix them,” says Ofcom. “We are considering what regulatory action may be required to ensure broadcasters do not find themselves in this situation again in the future.”

This isn’t the only issue. Despite Ofcom quotas for captioning on British TV channels (90% for all programming on Channel 4 and ITV, and 100% for BBC channels), there is still no legal responsibility for on-demand services to follow the same rules, despite Ofcom recommendations to government.

And they need to be put in place, urgently. While BBC iPlayer received positive feedback for a recent overhaul of its subtitles, including an adjustable font, many expressed frustration at inconsistent or illegible subtitles on services such as Hayu, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV.

“We’re seeing a growing number of people enjoy content online, so it’s ridiculous that government legislation - like with many other issues involving digital spaces – is slow to catch up,” Liam O’Dell, a deaf freelance journalist and campaigner, tells me.

“A mandatory requirement for streaming services to provide subtitles and audio description on all of their content makes access an expectation, rather than an ‘optional’ task companies can opt out of doing. It would also embed access in future commissions, making it an integral part of the content’s development – as it should be. When accessibility is improved, every viewer benefits.” After all, we’re all using subtitles anyway.

Scott Bryan is a media journalist, presenter and entertainment critic
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Re: Subtitles
Reply #1 - Jan 3rd, 2022, 1:28pm
Subtitles, an elixir to "de-mumble" the latest drama fad.
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