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  • iheartsubtitles 1:18 pm on May 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Campaigns, , , , , , ,   

    Subtitles for VOD, whose responsibility is it anyway? 

    UK based charities behind the #SubtitleIt campaign received a letter from Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy. It was not the response that the campaign had hoped for.

    Action on Hearing Loss have summarised:

    Mr Vaizey has told us that, during autumn 2015, Department for Culture, Media and Sport officials met with platform operators, content providers and broadcasters, and that the discussions gave clarity into the problems limiting the availability of access services and what’s needed to improve provision levels.

    The Minister has concluded that a lot has been achieved by broadcasters, content providers and platform operators towards increasing the provision of subtitles, and that “the 2013 commitment is being met”. He states that the introduction of legislation and the prescription of targets “could have a detrimental impact on what the sector has shown it is able to achieve on a voluntary basis”. In short, he has refused to take decisive action to end the digital exclusion faced by people with hearing loss due to the lack of subtitles.

    SOURCE: Action on Hearing Loss – Government decision on subtitles, April 2016

    And the crux of the issue:

    Mr Vaizey states that it was “encouraging to hear that several players throughout the supply chain of access services are working together” to overcome problems that limit the availability of access services.

    In reaching this opinion Ed Vaizey has ignored the evidence of the regulator, ATVOD. They reported that a “stalemate” persists between the broadcasters (content providers) who provide the programmes (e.g. ITV and UKTV) and the set top box operators (platforms) who pull together content from lots of different providers (e.g. Sky and Virgin), and a lack of clarity about whose responsibility it is to make content accessible.

    SOURCE: Action on Hearing Loss – Government decision on subtitles, April 2016

    This issue keeps cropping up. Whose responsibility is it?

    Netflix who do subtitle the majority of its content have published an article on their subtitling workflow. It’s interesting to read how Netflix tackles the problem of different devices requiring different formats, and how different languages can sometimes require different rendering capabilities that may not always be available on the device being used by the end user, and how before all of that is tackled, quality control checks are put in place. They have chosen to take on much of the responsibility in the sense that if a content provider does not provide a subtitle file in the correct format, they have invested in systems to overcome the problem and solve the problem of different devices requiring subtitles in different formats (phones, tablets, smart TVs, PC etc) The industry has made similar steps in this regard to with agreeing industry standard subtitling formats (such as EBU-TT which the UK regulator recommends is adopted). BBC iPlayer have also subtitled content as the “norm” for years and have very detailed guidelines documented here. I haven’t found many other articles on this subject, but it would appear the iTunes platform in the US have taken responsibility – sort of. It’s not that the platform is saying it will take responsibility to provide closed captioning, but iTunes (US) will remove content supplied by providers if they have failed to include a closed captioning file. It’s an interesting tactic, but its a move that I feel reflects regulatory requirements in the US, rather than a bold statement from Apple that they will only accept accessible content. (If anyone disagree’s with this conclusion – please do comment).

    Blackboard with a chart written in chalk saying if not us who? if not now when? if not here where?

    VOD subtitles – whose responsibility is it?

    So, back to the question, whose responsibility is it, and what is the right way to ensure accessibility via subtitling and captioning is implemented for VOD services? It’s a question the FCC in the US asked, and also recently answered. The UK VOD industry currently does not have this clarity, and the regulator cannot set it. In the interest of full transparency I should point out to those who are reading who may not be aware, I’ve been employed by a broadcaster, and a platform in my career so far. Whilst I have some insight into the differing workflows – it doesn’t make the answer to the question any easier except to say if both work together (that is a platform makes sure it has no barriers to access and can support accessibility features, and a broadcaster can provide those features (e.g. provide subtitle files / audio description files with its video content), it can be solved. I don’t necessarily think its and either/or answer here. The responsibility probably lies with both. Yes, there are challenges which some broadcasters will face more than others, and there are some platforms that will find it easier to do than others (for various reasons: do they make their own programmes, do they buy them from other content providers, do they control the full end-to-end chain? Has the platform been built to support accessibility features or do they have to tackle that first? etc) But it is absolutely technically possible for any VOD service to provide an accessible service. We know that, there are good guys who have been doing this for ages. The question is, how time-critical is this goal considered to be by either one of these parties? If it even is a goal for those services which are not accessible? Why not set a (regulatory) target – no goal is ever reached without setting a deadline. And whatever well-meaning action is currently being taken by VOD services that are planning to add accessibility features, if you need them, the progress certainly does not feel fast enough. And that is why Action on Hearing Loss are continuing their #SubtitleIt campaign, encouraging anyone who relies on subtitles to enjoy VOD services to contact their TV providers. The charity will also be targeting those working in the VOD industry by giving a talk at the VOD Summit taking place in London next month.

     
    • Robyn Carter 1:45 pm on May 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Facing similar problems x 10 here

      Like

    • Probably shouldn't say 12:24 am on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t believe that any such “stalemate” exists – in most cases the providers of VOD content are the same TV channels who already create and provide subtitles on their broadcast TV channels. The problem is wholly with the TV platform providers – Sky, Virgin, YouView, etc. I work for a VOD content provider and we have never been able to get the platform providers to accept subtitled content – they are just not interested.

      ATVOD failed because they pressured the content providers to provide subtitles, but ATVOD had no power over the platforms. If the platforms don’t provide the ability to carry subtitles (and AD) then no content provider can offer accessible content, end of story. This is why even BBC iPlayer content – accessible nearly everywhere else – has no subtitles or AD when viewed on-demand on Sky or the non-TiVo Virgin platform.

      Like

      • iheartsubtitles 7:00 am on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for your comment. I do believe it takes work from both content providers and platforms. It’s frustrating to hear that a content provider wants to be accessible but has difficulties in getting platforms to support accessibility features 😦

        Like

    • Dean 2:48 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Another great article Dawn. This is such a contentious issue. Sadly, the technology is available for VOD content to carry subtitles but it’s difficult to get the platform providers to engage with it as there’s no legislation. Also frustrating is that my local MP when approached never backed the Action On Hearing Loss SubtitleIT campaign, and turned down my offer to talk to her about the available technology. I don’t see this happening any time soon.

      Like

    • Nathalie 11:15 am on December 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Hello!

      I came across this blog because i am doing my thesis on music subtitling. You have lots of very interesting information here!
      I am looking for any info I can get on music genres in music subtitles. Would you be familiar with anything/any styleguide being used anywhere? Is there any “reference list” used anywhere, is this being practiced? I can’t really find anything in my world of academia..especially not in German subtitling (which is what I am looking into)
      I’d be happy for any help I can get.
      =D

      Like

    • Jodene Antoniou 9:35 am on June 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Dawn, nice article!

      I believe a lot of the issues really come down to price. There is a huge gap in the market between incredibly cheap automated subtitling which is of a very poor quality and subtitles that are written by professionals but are incredibly expensive.

      Converting between subtitle formats is relatively simple with professional software and subtitles should be supported on most platforms. Most companies, including the BBC are shifting away from EBU-STL subtitles and more into Timed Text that can be used on more platforms. But supplying subtitles for all formats is still a cost and it’s far too tempting for providers to choose not to save money and not use VoD subtitles when still not all platforms support them.

      I have a son who has moderate hearing loss, and run a subtitling and closed captioning company, http://www.capitalcaptions.com. Our subtitles are ALWAYS written by professionals but offered at reasonable prices in order to encourage more TV providers to utilise them for all formats. But without the platform providers also taking responsibility soon, real changes are going to take a very long time.

      Like

  • iheartsubtitles 4:00 pm on October 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Campaigns, ,   

    #SubtitleIt campaign and other UK regulatory news 

    Earlier this year Action on Hearing loss created a survey to gather the experiences and thoughts of subtitle users access to video on demand (VOD) services in the UK.  The results have been published and the report titled Progress on Pause is well worth a read.

    It’s part of the #SubtitleIt campaign which is a joint effort from multiple UK charities that wants to see VOD accessibility regulated as a mandatory requirement as is currently the case in the UK for linear TV.  Individual advocates alongside the charities efforts has resulted in some success so far including a statement from Sky to commit to increasing their on demand subtitled content.

    Graphic of Houses of Parliament and #SubtitleIt logo

    The deadline to ask your MP to back the bill is November 2015.

    The campaign is far from over however. For any legislation to become a reality, it needs support from MPs. If you do not see your local MP listed here please write to them asking them to back the bill. (Note this also includes other important accessibility features such as audio description and signing). Please don’t miss the deadline.

    ATVOD logo

    From 1st January 2016, ATVOD will no longer exist as a co-regulator and its responsibilities will be carried out by Ofcom

    In other regulatory news that effects VOD services in the UK, the regulatory body Ofcom announced that it would take over the role of ATVOD:

    The regulation of ‘video-on-demand’ programme services is being brought fully within Ofcom to sit alongside its regulation of broadcast content.

    The move follows an Ofcom review to ensure regulation of broadcast and on-demand content remains as effective and efficient as possible for the benefit of consumers, audiences and industry.

    The review included the current co-regulatory arrangements for video-on-demand services. These can include catch-up TV and on-demand services on the TV and the internet. Ofcom designated the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) in 2010 as a co-regulator to take the lead in regulating editorial content for video-on-demand services.

    Following the review, Ofcom has decided that acting as sole regulator for video-on-demand programmes is a more effective model for the future than having two separate bodies carrying out this work. This will create operational efficiencies and allow editorial content on video-on-demand to sit alongside Ofcom’s existing regulation of broadcasting.

    SOURCE: Ofcom brings regulation of ‘video-on-demand’ in-house

    This (in my opinion) is good news. It means a far less confusing regulatory model and that all TV will sit under the same regulator.   Ofcom recently published its results into access services on UK TV for the first six months of 2015.  With Ofcom to take over the duties of ATVOD in 2016, wouldn’t it be great if we could have the same level of transparency on how each VOD service is performing with more regular (and legally required) statistical reporting on levels of access services here too?

     
    • virginia 12:15 am on January 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Hi there,

      I’ve read a few of your posts as have been researching ‘live captions’ for news websites. The live captions to display on a screen would read a bit gobblydeegook if you know what I mean? So they are in a flat text file, so the image you show in the post below “How subtitles add value, not just access” about Video Metadata.

      Any thoughts on how best to display this for news stories and videos that have not been captioned properly? Was thinking of an accordian drop down.

      Obviously this is a big SEO plus if it can be done correctly.

      The video content has to remain on the actual news website.

      Rgds
      Virginia

      Like

      • iheartsubtitles 12:09 pm on January 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Virginia – Are you talking about live news being captioned online when it is no longer live, or are you looking to improve live captioning of live news? If so this is something that is in its infancy compared to other media that is captioned or subtitled online.

        Like

  • iheartsubtitles 3:13 pm on February 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ASR, Campaigns, captions, ,   

    #withcaptions Fixing You Tube’s auto-captions 

    Last month some high-profile vlogger’s that include Rikki Poynter and Tyler Oakley on the popular video sharing site YouTube got the attention of some mainstream press with a campaign that started with the hashtag #withcaptions.  It’s fantastic to see other’s campaigning and educating their audience as to the importance of not just captioning your online videos but captioning them accurately. I won’t repeat what mainstream media coverage reported but if you missed it or have no idea what I am talking about click on the links below:

    Animated gif of 1980s Apple commercial of a a kid at a computer looking impressed and giving a thumbs up to the camera

    To anyone who accurately captions their online videos. Good job. Thank you.

    It is so refreshing to get some positive mainstream press coverage about the importance of subtitling and its even more brilliant that the message is being spread by individuals outside of the subtitling, captioning or SEO industry. To all of you individuals doing this or perhaps have acted on this information and are now accurately captioning your own You Tube video’s – a massive thank you from me.

    As most of you reading should already know, You Tube does use automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology to automatically create captions from the audio track of uploaded video content on its site but these are very rarely, if ever accurate.  But what if you could fix these to make them accurate, rather than have to start from scratch to create accurate captions? That’s exactly what Michael Lockrey, who refers to these as ‘Craptions’ aims to solve with nomoreCRAPTIONS.  As Lockrey explains:

    nomoreCRAPTIONS is a free, open source solution that enables any YouTube video with an automatic captioning (‘craptioning’) track to be fixed within the browser.

    Craptions is the name coined by me for Google YouTube’s automatic craptioning – as they don’t provide any accessibility outcomes for people who rely on captioning unless they are reviewed and corrected. As this rarely happens and as Google rarely explains that they haven’t really “fixed” the captioning accessibility issue, we have a huge web accessibility problem where most online videos are uncaptioned (or only craptioned which is just as poor as no captioning at all).

    If you don’t believe me, then look at Google YouTube’s own actions in this space. The fact that they don’t even bother to index the automatic craptioning speaks volumes – as their robots hunt down pretty much everything that moves on the internet. So it’s obvious from these actions that they don’t place any value in them at all when they are left unmodified by content creators.

    There is also no way to watch the automatic craptioning on an iOS device (such as an iPhone or iPad) at present, unless you use the nomoreCRAPTIONS tool.

    Lockrey who is profoundly deaf has taught himself web development skills to solve a problem that he feels Google (You Tube’s owners) have largely ignored.  This hasn’t been easy as although there’s a huge amount of learning materials on YouTube and other platforms, most of them are uncaptioned or craptioned. Lockrey explains:

    Previously if I encountered yet another YouTube video that was uncaptioned or craptioned, I would often spend my own money and invest personal resources (my own personal time, effort, etc) in obtaining a transcript and / or a timed text caption file.  This usually also involved taking a copy of the YouTube video and then re-uploading the video onto my own YouTube channel so I could add the accessibility layer (i.e. good quality captioning).  Quite often I would end up being blacklisted from Google YouTube’s automated copyright systems, when I was only trying to access content that was freely and publicly made available by the content creators on YouTube and was not trying to earn revenue from the content (via ads) or any “funny” business, etc I knew that there simply had to be a better way.

    Screen grab of No More Captions hompage

    No More Craptions lets you edit You Tube’s auto-captioning errors

    With nomoreCRAPTIONS you simply paste in a YouTube URL or video ID and it instantly provides you with an individual web page for that video where you can go through and fix up the automatic craptioning (where there is an automatic craptioning track available).

    At the moment it’s a very simple interface and it is ideal for shorter YouTube videos of 4 or 5 minutes in duration (or less). It works in all languages that Google supports on YouTube with automatic craptioning. Here’s an example of the Kim Kardashian superbowl commercial which is very short and sweet.

    Screen shot showing edited auto captions via the No More Craptions tool.

    You can modify the text of the auto-captions to correct any errors via the yellow box on the right.

    Lockrey explains:

    There’s very little learning curve involved and this was intentional as whilst Amara and DotSub have great solutions in this space, they also have quite a substantial learning curve and I wanted to make it as easy as possible for anyone to just hop on and do the right thing. One the biggest advantages of the tool is that the corrected captions can be viewed immediately once you have saved them. This means it’s possible for a Deaf person to watch a hearing person fix up the craptions on a video over their shoulder and see the edits in real-time!

    We’ve even had a few universities using the tool as there’s so much learning content that is on YouTube, and this is simply the easiest way for them to ensure that there’s an accessible version made available to the students that need captioning – without wasting time on copyright shenanigans etc.  I’ve also been using it as a great advocacy tool – it’s so easy to share corrected captions with the content creators now and hopefully we can bridge that awareness gap that Google has allowed to fester since November 2009.

    noMORECRAPTIONS is still very much in the early development stage and there is more to come. The next steps are a partnership with #FreeCodeCamp to help with rolling out improvements and new features in the very near future. This includes looking at other platforms such as Facebook and Vimeo videos as part of the next tranche of upgrades as more and more platforms cross over to HTML 5 video.

    Lockrey is keen to get as much user feedback as possible so what are you waiting for – try the tool for yourself. For more information please contact @mlockrey.

    And when you’ve done that, you might also want to read: OMG! I just found out there’s only 5% captioning* on YouTube.

     
  • iheartsubtitles 2:24 pm on April 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Campaigns, ,   

    Subtitling and Captioning Campaigns 

    Spring has arrived, and with it seems to be some new campaigns on the horizon relating to subtitling advocacy. It seems more people are getting frustrated at the lack of captioning or subtitling that is available to them or at least have become more vocal about it online in an attempt to create change.

    Just before Christmas last year, @sjmcdermid and @lovesubtitles spearheaded a change.org petition aimed at Amazon providing subtitling information and subtitles to their video on demand services. Formerly called LOVEFiLM the company has since rebranded to Amazon Prime Instant Video presumably to match the brand in other countries. The petition gained a huge number of signatures but what is truly disappointing is the lack of response from Amazon themselves.

    Another campaigner has set up a different petition, this one aimed in the direction of BSKYB requesting subtitles be added to their video on demand offerings.

    UPDATE: And another subtitling campaigner based in the UK is @whatshesay76 who has just launched a website.

    It seems TV viewers in Ireland are not happy with the levels of subtitling offered to them by RTE, TV3, Setanta,TnaG and TG4. @SubtitleIreland have set up a Facebook page publishing responses to their enquiries as to why more content is not subtitled.

    UPDATE: Robyn, got in touch to alert me to captioning campaign in New Zealand aimed at increasing the volume of broadcast output that is currently subtitled. The campaign called Caption It NZ has a blog and Facebook page. You can also follow them on Twitter @captionitNZ

    Not to be outdone by individuals efforts to advocate, there has also been some activity with corporate backed campaigns.

    Firstly the crowd sourced subtitled content platform @Viki has teamed up with @MarleeMatlin to launch the #billionwords campaign advocating for more subtitling globally in more languages.

    And @121Captions is behind the @CaptionEverything campaign which has just recently launched.

    Have I missed any? Are there other’s you know about? Comment below and I can update this blog post to include it.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that wherever you are based in the world the CCAC for several years and has helped run and/or contributed to advocacy campaigns to get captioning in all sorts of scenarios – in schools, at work, online, at church, online and so on. Their most recent campaign surrounds the US Election and captioning election campaigns, but its members and participants consists of both users of captions and providers of captioning services spanning the globe.

     
    • MM 6:13 pm on April 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      We cannot mount an honest captioning campaign whilst the sign user has an legal opt out to them. we have to show we are willing too.

      Like

    • messagesfromouterspace 1:11 am on April 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Yes – You’ve missed the one in NZ. #CaptionitNZ We only have 23% of captioning on our television, none on internet, and only a small percentage of DVDs. No wonder people turn to pirating.

      OUr blog is http://www.captionitnz.co.nz We have a facebook page https://www.facebook.com/captionitnz

      Please join in and help – we need all we can get 🙂

      Like

    • Tina 9:46 am on May 3, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Dawn, Thanks for the mention! Would you like to help support the Caption Everything campaign? I believe an email came in from you but I can’t find it. Please contact me or help yourself to the logo.

      Like

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