It’s all gone Pete Tong (wrong)

Yesterday I got upset because some else got upset in a conversation via Twitter in which we discussed how two music shows have been subtitled on UK TV rather poorly recently. The two in question are X Factor (see Ian Noon’s blog) and Later with Jools Holland.  Both shows are not subtitled prior to transmission because of close filming dates to its transmission date which does not allow time for the final edit to be sent to a captioner/subtitler before broadcast. Live subtitling of music for obvious reason can be a bit of a challenge – especially if the person doing it is not familiar with lyrics or is not given the chance to research them beforehand because they are not provided with the information to prepare with.  This is probably why the subtitling can be out of sync, miss words or a combination of both.  But  here’s the thing – both programmes are repeated in the TV schedule – why oh why can we not have a bit of quality control and the live subtitling be reviewed in time for a repeat schedule and/or for the internet broadcast on itv player / BBC iplayer.  Right now on BBC iplayer – listen to the latest episode of Later with Jools Holland in silence, put the subtitles on and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Scissor Sisters had a song out called ‘Subtitles unavailable for 3 minutes’ except you wouldn’t know what the lyrics are for it:

Later with Jools Holland - Poor subtitles :(

I don't feel like subtitling, no sir, no subtitles today

Now I am an optimist generally speaking but after the depressing conversation about the lack of quality subtitles on the above  music shows I began to wonder how many people might be narrow minded and assume that the only people who use subtitles are people who are hard of hearing or deaf (this is not true) and they won’t have any interest in music (this is definitely not true).  Similarly, and perhaps even worse,  is this the assumption also by broadcasters and  why  it seems as if it is not considered a high priority to review the quality of the subtitling output for music shows in particular?  I admit that I couldn’t help but respond to a tweet recently in which someone asked why was BBC4 ‘bothering’ to subtitle a documetary on Jimi Hendrix. Why on earth not?! I did attempt to educate said person that deaf and hard of hearing people are music lovers too!

Ironically, whilst this is going on, I’m reading reports that in India subtitling music videos has helped drive an increase in literacy rates:

India’s public karaoke-for-literacy experiment is the only one of its kind in the world. Technically known as same-language subtitling, or SLS, it manages to reach 200 million viewers across 10 states every week. In the last nine years, functional literacy in areas with SLS access has more than doubled. And the subtitles have acted as a catalyst to quadruple the rate at which completely illiterate adults become proficient readers.

SOURCE: New York Times

And it wasn’t always like this on UK TV. My earliest memory of discovering the joy of subtitles was in turning them on for the Thursday night BBC1 broadcast of Top Of The Pops in the 1990s (see The Author ). This was subtitled, and subtitled accurately right down to the #Oooh Ohhhh Ooooh# ‘s of the latest dance tune with albeit limited lyrics (2 Unlimited anyone? Love it!). It meant music was accessible to me in a way it could never be on the radio. It saddens me to think that a teenager now watching chart music on TV may not have the same access as I did. I am always pleased when I turn on 4Music or Viva to discover the video playing has been subtitled – it does seem a bit random but at least it is being done and is also accurate. I applaud this. Also great is to see some music video’s with in vision signing for those that use British Sign Language. If only because it has inspired this next guy Lee, who in turn inspired me (I may share that another time, not right now), to upload BSL music videos to share with the world via You Tube. He makes it look so easy (it’s not) and a heck of a lot of fun (I bet it is). Check out the speed (and accuracy according to the comments) of Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta Feelin’ :

And yes this video is also accurately subtitled (though you may have to shut down the advert to see them)

At least people online are currently putting TV to shame – which really is shame because it *is* TV that inspired Lee in the first place (see his comments on his You Tube channel about how he learned to sign). It could still be for many others if TV can be relied upon for greater accuracy and quality subtitling than the poor examples discussed.