Broadcasters may learn live news subtitling from UK

Irish broadcasters may be invited to learn about subtitling live events such as news programmes from their UK counterparts following complaints from viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing.

A review of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s access rules has found that broadcasters are broadly compliant with the regulations governing access to programming for users who are deaf or hard of hearing.

It also found that the quantity of access provision had risen considerably.

However, the review also noted that the users’ experience was that there remained “significant issues” with the reliability and quality of access provision, which mostly applied to live subtitling.

“With regard to the difficulties being encountered by Irish broadcasters with live subtitling of news, a suggestion was made that the BAI might look to work with the main broadcasters to host a session with a UK PSB [public service broadcaster] that could set out how they have aligned internal work practices in the news room with the requirement of live subtitling,” the report read.

A review of the rules in 2012 brought about a change whereby the quality and reliability of access provision was considered towards a broadcaster’s target, as well as the quantity. If the quality of a broadcasters’ access provision on a particular programme falls below a certain threshold, that programme will not count towards the broadcaster’s target.

The BAI said some of the issues experience by users included: Subtitles not starting at the same time as the programme; subtitles not keeping pace with the dialogue; incorrect words being displayed; subtitles stopping partway through the programme; and subtitles not starting again after adverts.

Susan Whelan of the Irish Deaf Society said it workedclosely with major television broadcasters in Ireland and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with regard to the Access Rules, and that while the body commended the work done in the area of increasing of subtitles, it was still not at 100%.

“We have also expressed concerns in areas of quality of subtitles such as inconsistent subtitles, missing subtitles and wrong subtitles files being loaded to a programme,” said Ms Whelan.

“We are also disappointed in the cuts to RTE’s Hands On, which was the only television programme for deaf people, which was cut in 2014. RTÉ has increased the quantity of Irish sign language, which consists of a signed language interpreter translating a programme in the middle of the night.

“Whilst this matches RTÉ targets, we would encourage more programming to include deaf content and deaf people themselves.

“For any hearing people watching TV, you have the comfort of clicking on the television and watching anything you decide. For a deaf person, however, we do not have this luxury. Recently, the new TV3 programme Red Rock did not air subtitles on its first ever episode which resulted in excluding the deaf and hard of hearing community. The sad thing is, it’s not the first time this has happened and it’s accepted that this will happen again.”

A BAI spokesman said it hoped to facilitate a meeting later this year between Irish and UK broadcasters “which would allow information to be shared between organisations to help streamline the various processes in the news room and maximise the time that subtitlers have to prepare the subtitles”.

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