CSI User Experience Conference 2012 Part 4 – Access business models & BSLBT

CSI User Experience Conference 2012: TV Accessibility

CSI User Experience Conference 2012: TV Accessibility

For background info on this conference read:Part 1.

The next panel was a discussion on business models for making TV accessible to included disabled audiences and the reasons why businesses choose to do it. Representatives from the BBC, Red Bee Media, and Channel 4 all agreed that providing access has been done in part due to regulatory framework requiring it to but more often than not public service broadcasters have gone above and beyond what is required from the Communciation Act with regards to the percentage of content that is provided with subtitles. As a whole the panel agreed that there are some technological challenges to overcome with the move away from linear TV viewing to content being availalbe to view on various platforms. David Padmore of Red Bee Media explained:

One of the things I want to bring up, is the debunk a little bit of myth that these services are very costly to produce, that is often brought up as a reason why accessibility is E difficult, we have got many great examples in the UK broadcast space where content owners and broadcasters have demonstrated they can provide extremely high levels of accessibility, in many cases up to 100% of subtitle coverage and 20 to 30% audio description within their ever tightening budgets. I think Ofcom obviously set out guidelines to put the percentage, less than 1 % of total turn over of on an organisation should be spent on accessibility. I think broadcasters comfortable manage very high levels of accessibility within those constraints. We need to get away from the idea that these services are very costly. They have come down enormously in price over the last decade as the volume of these services has grown.

Similarly Sophie Jones, Head of Corporate Relations for Channel 4 said:

I suppose thinking about this session being round business models, for Channel 4 its a slightly strange question for us to be answering in that context because I think for us our starting point is that we’re a public service broadcaster, we’re a public service broadcaster that’s always had a remit to cater for and represent culturally diverse society. For so us the beginning point is how do we best achieve that, one of the ways we achieve that is ensuring that our content is made as widely available to everybody in the UK as it possibly can be. I think we have grown up also with a highly regulated space so we comply with the regulations laid down by Ofcom for us to do. But actually above and beyond that, we are constantly looking at how we can do the right thing by the viewer if you like. So it was that motivation that underpinned the decision we made to increase TV subtitling to 100% and to look to mirror that on 4 OD on the Channel 4.com platform.

With regards to the technical challenges faced Sophie Jones said:

The challenge that’s been touched on many times this morning there are technical issues, there’s a job of work for the industry to come together and collaborate and work out the best way to overcome those hurdles. It’s an opportunity.

Gareth Ford Williams, Acting Head of Usability and Accessibility for the BBC spoke of the technical challenges saying:

I think from our perspective then, the next layer for us because then we go beyond the Communications Act, we go into the digital services, our regulation doesn’t come from ATVOD or the Equalities Act it comes from a Trust, so the Trust. Where technically possible we have to make all of our access services available on any platform we support, to actually the same proportions that we do on linear. So if it’s available on linear, we make it available if possible. I mean this quite interesting, because obviously we can deliver on everything. So Freesat CS 2 works great Virgin TiVo, we do mobile web, Freeview devices the HTML 5 app online, Android, there’s plenty of platforms out there that can support subtitles and when we get it out there its 100% we just do that. The other thing the Trust say it’s not just about the content it’s about the navigation to content (red button, second screen, multi screen interaction)….service providers have a really difficult challenge, because we’re operating in a framework of other people’s technology be that hardware or software. But you do feel like you are spinning plates continuously when you are trying to support all these different types of service on all this different types of platforms and literally Adobe, Microsoft or Apple can update we find a new feature that great and we kill support, or there are problems between compatibility between Microsoft and Adobe on one of their packages, it busts our services there something we can do about it. All we have to do, we try to work with all these different technology providers, and that’s part of our world really.

Within this panel one of the most interesting points for me was the fact that some broadcasters are starting to recognise the added value beyond the viewer to their business of providing access to the viewer, particularly with regards to subtitles. In the same way that subtitiling or captioning video’s online provide an added benefit to the company in that it makes the video content searchable and therefore improves SEO (see this post for an explanation) broadcasters are using subtitles to as meta data to aid other workflows to help them run the business efficiently and effectively. Red Bee Media’s, David Padmore gave this example:

Broadcasters are beginning to recognise the value add that these services provide, beyond pure accessibility options which are essential to the audience. But within their organisations, and we have several examples where we work successfully with broadcasters where we use the access services beyond the point of transmission for other purposes. Now whether that is uncovering programme material within archives for clip based programmes, whether its for compliance purposes, to know whether or not there is either language issues….we have been able to use the access files to very quickly search entire archive to uncover examples where there maybe problems of compliance. Then also for the externally for the viewer, the fact that the content owner has paid for what is essentially a timed transcript of the material, and the audio description providing a different dimension in terms of description of that material, there’s an enormous amount of metadata there that can be used for the purposes of discovery for the audience. If you consider the cost of that accessibility across the entire life cycle, the way that many providers are seeking to monetise that in many ways. The cost of it stays small….I think there is ways in which we can improve it and derive greater value from those services to make it even more effective.

On a similar note Gareth Ford Williams noted that:

David make a great point about the additional benefits, particularly of subtitles, the way we look at this as well is beyond what our public service organisation we should be doing, and no-one will argue with an organisation that we should be doing this. All the great additional benefits. Subtitles if we can get hold of the script digitise it bring it in together with audio description it’s the richest metadata in the world, its brilliant stuff it enables innovation. You can offset again the costs.

If you require an explanation of how metadata can be used within in a broadcast context this presentation is a good introduction. (Unfortunately it is not subtitled and the auto generated subtitles are not good)

And to finish this blog post of, going back to the subject of access, Terry Riley, Chief Executive of the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSLBT) gave a presentation that included an explanation on why subtitling isn’t always the answer for the deaf community:

Subtitles as a medium of access is great if you have English, if written English is not a strength of yours, we have to remember in terms of deaf education, written English isn’t the strongest point for deaf people, some deaf people who don’t have English are not going to access because of subtitles. So there are a range of deaf people that will, that’s great, but those deaf people that can’t, monolingual people can’t.

You can read his presentation here.