ITV confirm that X Factor subtitles need to be better

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.


X Factor: looking for pig talent

This could be interesting, I thought, as I sat down for my Saturday evening viewing. Pigs battling it out, a kind of “Porkie’s Got Talent” and a plethora of terrible bacon-related puns from Dermot?

Alas, it was one of many subtitling errors on Saturday’s opening to the new series. I think they meant to say “big talent”?

Yes, the X Factor is back. Which means the return of tone-deaf singers, lots of shouting from Dermot, fashion wars between Dannii and Cheryl and TRULY AWFUL subtitles.

Every year, it gets worse. Numerous typos and subtitles so out of sync with what’s being said that I only get the lame jokes around 5 minutes later. I could kind of forgive it for the live shows (though BBC news manage to at least appear to be trying to match the speech with the subtitles) but even on non-live shows, the subtitles on the X Factor are among the worse I’ve seen on any programme.

Is there some assumption at ITV that they don’t need to bother with decent subtitles because deaf people don’t listen to music? If so, then this is a pretty idiotic and offensive assumption to make. Lots of deaf children and young people watch and enjoy the X Factor. It’s unacceptable they don’t have equal access to what is one of ITV’s most popular shows.

I’ve emailed them to complain – if you want to do the same, the email address is I’ll keep a keen eye out for any more errors in coming weeks.

New survey on TV subtitles: have your say

Image courtesy of RNID

When I ask deaf young people what their pet peeves are, invariably they mention the quality of subtitles on TV. So I was pretty pleased to see that RNID have commissioned some research to look at what people think about subtitles. And they’re currently asking deaf people to feed in their views to help with their future campaign work on this. It includes some interesting questions about whether it’s more important to have speed or quality when it comes to live subtitles. Where do you stand on the trade off?

I’ve filled it in and taken the opportunity to have my annual whinge about subtitles on the X Factor… Why not have your say and help make a difference?

And if you feel really outraged about particular programmes with rubbish subtitles, there’s some information on NDCS’s website about how to complain to individual broadcasters. Go on, make a fuss, you know you want to…

Deaf children the losers in the X Factor?

The X Factor final is on tomorrow night! Personally, I will slap the next ten Irish people I meet if Eoghan beats Alexanda to the prize.

One thing is for sure. A deaf person won’t be able to rely on the subtitles to find out who has won. This year, the subtitles on the X Factor have been appallingly bad. Every deaf friend I know who has watched it thinks the same. The subtitles often don’t come on screen until around a minute after it’s been spoken. That is if it’s comes on at all.

ITV would probably say that subtitling errors are inevitable on live programmes. Which is fair enough (though this does beg the question over why if it is absolutely necessary the X Factor has to be shown live). But this doesn’t explain why the subtitles on the repeated shows of the X Factor are also rubbish.

Is anyone taking the quality of subtitles seriously at ITV? As far as I know, there is no real time monitoring of subtitles, in the same way as there is of audio or visual quality. If the picture screws up, the programme is interrupted, an apology is given and some muzak is played. If the subtitles screw up, the programme carries on as normal and you’re expected to write in with details of the errors.

I’ve singled out the X Factor just because it’s a programme enjoyed by lots of deaf children I meet. Their viewing needs are just as important as everyone else. Deaf children shouldn’t be the losers on this programme.