Goodbye Ceefax, Hello digital and streaming content

Ceefax switched off yesterday. Teletext technology gave us subtitles/closed captioning so it seemed fitting to mention it here. Turning on the TV to a BBC channel in my household was almost always quickly followed by turing on Ceefax and selecting page 888 to switch on the subtitles.

BBC 1 ident with Ceefax Page 888 Notification

I remember always being annoyed if the ident prior to a programme starting on the BBC did not have a “Page 888” notification indicating that subtitles are available!

I am showing my age now sharing this next clip but I was grateful that most (though sadly not many of the cartoons) programmes on Children’s BBC were subtitled via Ceefax back in the 90s – here’s a more fun notification to viewers:

The closure of the Ceefax service seemed to bring out a wave of nostalgia on Twitter. With the TV digital switchover its probably fair to say that few of us have used it in recent years but lots of people took to Twitter to share fond memories:

Zs, night tweeps, dream tonight of putting Ceefax subtitles on for Taggart just one last time…

Not only but it was *the best* RT @midnight_movies: hands up who *only* ever used Ceefax to put subtitles on for Top of the Pops? thought so

555 for lotto numbers, 888 for subtitles and 303 for premiership scores. childhood memories! #ceefax #goodnightceefax

Thank you for teaching me most of the english I know with your subtitles on the BBC programmes, Ceefax. Goodbye.

My grateful thanks to #ceefax – you will be greatly missed. Ceefax revolutionised my life with subtitles from an early age.

RIP Ceefax, may you provide hours of subtitles and bamboozle games for the big telly in the sky.

@guardian It was all about #Bamboozle on #Ceefax. I also remember when I found out that page #888 put subtitles on everything. Happy days!

Not everyone was a fan:

#ceefax you & my dad annoyed me on Saturday afternoons for a decade and your subtitles were rubbish. Goodbye

However if your still feeling nostalgic you can read about the early days of subtitling with Ceefax here.

It’s understandable why Ceefax has closed – very much out of date with the digital and online world, so now what? Subtitles are still available on UK Digital TV, and efforts are being made for subtitles to continue to be available in the multi-platform environment of digital TV, online, VOD,and smart phones.

In the last few weeks I’ve been seeing adverts on UK TV for the launch of You View which I have high hopes for given its promises regarding accessibility (see this post) You can watch the advert on the website but ironically it is not subtitled! Has anyone bought this yet, and can you give feedback on subtitles? At the beginning of this year I upgraded my TV to an HD Freeview, internet enabled TV model. None of the internet streamed content appears to support subtitles. This includes providers for whom online equivalents do provide subtitles such as You Tube, BBC iplayer, and Demand 5. There is clearly work to be done here.

On a more positive note, I was pleased to read that Netflix (US) settled with National Association for the Deaf (NAD) and have agreed by 2014 to reach 100% closed captioning of the streaming content that they provide, a service called Netflix’s Watch Instantly. (Can you also do this for your UK services please?). You can read more details here. Following suit is Amazon (US) according to an article by Tech Crunch (Message for Amazon – can you please do the same for your UK service, LOVEFiLM INSTANT service please)

Sticking with the US, the first deadline of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) which requires access to online programming that has previously been shown on TV with captions, passed on September 30th 2012. If you wish to file a complaint CCAC have provided helpful guides here. Interestingly You Tube is also encouraging users to submit a form to tell them of publishers who are not providing closed captions but you think should be by law (presumably according to the CVAA)

On a similar note for UK based readers, OFCOM and Action On Hearing Loss are have created a survey which is running until the end of this year. They are seeking feedback on your experiences using subtitles on UK TV. The survey is particularly interested in feedback on the quality of subtitles that are being provided. You can contribute by completing this online form.