Making deaf children matter

Musings and blogs from a deaf campaigner

ITV confirm that X Factor subtitles need to be better

Posted by Ian Noon on September 13, 2010

Image courtesy of ITV

I blogged a while ago about rubbish subtitles on the X Factor. Well, after a series of stroppy emails and a threat to involve the Ofcom regulator, I got an email from ITV Viewer Services confirming what was pretty obvious to anyone who had been watching the audition shows of the X Factor from the start: that the subtitles were terrible and that, having finally watched the programme, they “would like the subtitling quality to be of a much higher standard”. Amen.

So why were the subtitles so rubbish? Even though the audition shows are filmed months in advance, the production team don’t finish editing the programmes until the very last minute. This means that the subtitling company don’t see the programme until the day of broadcast and the subtitles are made as if it was a live programme. I thought it was a rubbish reason. Surely, if ITV is serious about ensuring that deaf children and young people can access the X Factor along with other children, they would amend the production schedules so that more time can be factored in (or even… “x” factored in) to make the subtitles? Not the most unreasonable adjustment in the world, no?

After a bit of chasing, ITV finally seem to have seen the light and raised the issue with the production team to come up with a solution. The production team will send through a near-final edit of the programme the day before and subtitles will be prepared for this version. They also agreed that subtitles for repeats will be “perfect”.

I watched Saturday’s version and the subtitles were considerably better than before. Aside from a 5 minute bit where the subtitles completely disappeared, I was able to enjoy it as much as my hearing friends. Though their initial emails were slightly dismissive at first, hats off to ITV for for finally taking action to sort this. Here’s hoping the subtitles continue to be better for the next few shows.

Of course, we still have the live shows coming up. I’ve also emailed ITV again to ask them to take steps to make sure the production team and the subtitling people talk to each other to make sure the subtitles are as good as they can be. Fingers crossed.

My top 3 lessons from this?

1) Don’t be afraid to complain and make a fuss.
2) If the initial reply is rubbish, say so and say why.
3) Find out how to escalate the complaint and make it clear you will do so if you’re not happy with the replies.

Finally, if you come across any programmes with rubbish subtitles, the NDCS website explains how you can complain about it.

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5 Responses to “ITV confirm that X Factor subtitles need to be better”

  1. Glad you finally got a response. And that is a very useful link from the NDCS website. I shall add it to my blog. Hope that is ok.

  2. ITV should not sweep this issue under the carpet. Already there is a lot of noise regarding the issue of captions being made free by some government authorities. Media corporates have to understand that sub-titling or captioning has a defined utility for the deaf community and it is not just a regulation they have to comply with.

  3. […] 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 […]

  4. […] a real lack of thought and prep by the production team. If live subtitles of reasonable quality can be done on the X Factor, it can be done on Dancing on […]

  5. […] a real lack of thought and prep by the production team. If live subtitles of reasonable quality can be done on the X Factor, it can be done on Dancing on […]

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