Update – BBC’s online video content: where are the subtitles?

A nice man from the BBC emailed me very quickly after I complained about the lack of subtitles on an online video story about deaf children and cochlear implants, which I talked about in my most recent blog. Here’s what they had to say:

I’m afraid we simply don’t have the technology to provide subtitles on online videos, although I know that a limited pilot project is still under way. We could and should have added a transcript but that’s really down to lower staffing levels.

This has been discussed in the past and I admit not much progress has been made. The simple answer is for the people who make the reports in the first place – this one came from Nottingham – to be aware of the issues and to make a copy of their written scripts etc available. Interestingly this is the second complaint on this topic I have dealt with today.

I will take this up and will speak to my colleague who looks after disability issues to see if there’s some way of communicating to all our journalists the importance of providing a more accessible multimedia version of stories such as this.

Many thanks for raising it.

On the one hand, at least they recognise the problem and sound sufficiently contrite.

Still… its depressing that even after at least three people have complained about it, there is still no transcript on the webpage accompanying this story. Deaf children and adults are still being denied access to a story about deaf children, and denied a right of reply if they disagree with the report. And there remains the principle of access to all online video content, and not just those which are of particular interest to deaf people.

Accessibility of online video content is going to be an issue I suspect will crop up again and again. It’s now on NDCS’s campaigns radar and is something I hope to do some research into.

In the meantime, we’ll be keeping an eye out for more examples of inaccessible online video content.


A still disgruntled viewer from Bermondsey


BBC’s online video content: where are the subtitles?

It doesn’t take much to turn me into an angry deaf man, but to do it in super-speedy-time, all you need to do is say these three words:

Online video content.

By which I mean those little videos snips that you can now watch online on many news websites. Technology is amazing. Yet not quite so amazing that any of these websites launched their online video content without working out how deaf people were going to access it and actually putting it into place before they launched it. I very very rarely see any online video content with subtitles even though the technology to do this now seems to be out there. And what makes me doubly annoyed is that there is often no written content to accompany it, like a transcript or a summary.

I’ve been feeling a bit disgruntled about this for a while but yesterday I saw a video piece on the BBC online news website featuring some deaf children and cochlear implants. Without subtitles! Or any written content!

To put it in other words, there is a very good chance that the deaf children featured in the story would not have been able to understand what was being said about them.

I also understand that at the end of the piece that the reporter suggests that cochlear implants are controversial with “sign language users”. Well, if a deaf person wanted to question this or clarify this, the lack of subtitles means that the BBC has effectively denied a right of reply.

I personally think it’s outrageous and incredible that the people who put this on the website didn’t realise this, or if they did, put it on without a transcript. And it’s also really disappointing because the BBC does have a really good story to tell on access. They’re the first channel to subtitle everything on TV on their main seven channels. Their producers have really made an effort to engage with deaf children and to understand their needs. And they do seem committed to working out a solution to providing subtitles on online content.

But clearly there is still some way to go. And someone needs to have a word with the people who put this video on.


Disgruntled viewer from Bermondsey, London

PS. At the time of writing, there were still no subtitles or written transcript online so if you want to complain about this, you can do so here.