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BBC & accessible online content

bbclogo.gifLast year I issued a formal complaint and threatened legal action against the BBC as far as the lack of subtitling and BSL being produced online. For those of you who are interested, this is the latest state of play:

Subtitling Trial: subtitles are being trialled on multiple sites. Participating sites include: See Hear, Video Nation, Click and Panorama for subtitles in English and Capture Wales and Eorpa (Welsh or Gaelic).

Online BBC catch-up TV: is being launched this summer. BBC iPlayer, will also feature subtitles, in addition to BSL translated programmes broadcasted in the Sign Zone. This will launch with upwards of 25% of the supported programmes being available with subtitles, but the service will quickly ramp-up to enable for us to confidently support the 100% commitment to programme subtitling in 2008/09.

Signs of Life: an online project that will also feature subtitles for the first time on an online interactive drama built in Flash.

BBC Standards and Production Guidelines: this is being written for producing subtitles for all our future online Flash Video/Animation, Real and Windows Media content. This will be published in early Summer 07, and will appear on the Standards and Guidelines page.

My comments: It is good that progress is being made, but I have to wonder if this is happening too slowly, with not enough publicity? As a public service, the organisation has an obligation to make its content accessible, and for me this has not happened fast enough.

Accessibility needs to be addressed from the outset, not a mere afterthought and should be appearing from the word go for multimedia content. Whilst the BBC's objective might be to provide "quality, consistency, reliability, and scale ability", frankly *any access* is better than nothing. Yes I want quality, I appreciate the BBC needs resources to provide access, but does it have to happen so slowly? The BBC does not have a problem with provision of this through delivery of other content. For example, the BBC might not feel the use of Real Player ideal (it is developing iPlayer), but it does not stop them producing multimedia in this format.

Whilst the BBC is making progress here, one immediately has to think about other broadcast companies, such as ITV and Channel 4. As private companies their obligations may be different from a public funded organisation, however the DDA still applies. What if I wanted to access 4OD?

What are you doing in your country to promote online accessibility? What relevant laws apply?


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference BBC & accessible online content:

» BBC & accessible online content from Grumpy Old Deafies
If you are interested in forthcoming plans by BBCi to address subtitling and BSL through its website, go here.... [Read More]

» Deaf access to BBC Online content from Living a Simple Life
Alison Byran summed up well about the problems of accessing videos on BBC website - there are no sign language on them (I'm not a sign language user myself but not having access is putting disabling into the word disability) and minimal subtitles. I... [Read More]

» A Gamer asks for subtitles from Noesis
Continuing the theme of accessibility, a Deaf Gamer asks for subtitles: Dear Sir or Ma'aam, I am a deaf 20 year old that loves to play videogames. I've been playing videogames ever since I first played the Atari 2600 with... [Read More]

» Online subtitling: ReadOn, DotSub & geek diversity from Noesis
A few weeks back, Chris Pirillo was communicating to an audience via upstream.tv. Chris was talking via a box, and anyone who had stumbled on the page could participate in a text chat underneath. Except I couldn't understand what on... [Read More]


This issue is bigger than just subtitles.

BBC iPlayer is available just for Windows. This excludes all users of Linux and OSX.

BBC is basically going with an American developed system by a company that is famous for its excessive monopoly instead of allowing access for alternative platforms.

Linux for one have many excellent support for subtitles in multiple media players so it's not really an issue with them.

hi alison? you posted this blog correct? this is my first time using this website and you provided an interesting comment because now there are alot of websites which allows you to download movies and media files such as music, news, and video clips through a subscription but does not provide subtitling or CC. They advertise their downloads to be 100 percent compatible to all new windows and media software on computers which does enable CC and subtitling as long as the file has been properly formatted.

I believe through the laws of deaf access they are required to provide CC or subtitling especially through a subscription.

I am doing a presentation on a blog that interests me for a class at RIT, i would like to ask you a couple of questions such as name, school etc. for my resource list.

i hope to hear from you very soon, please email me at LML8888@rit.edu

my name is louis

Have u seen deafplanet.com? it features subtitles on their vids and you can even turn them on or off. In addition to sign language.

I would like to know how much percentage of our license fee is given to BBC online.

Me too.

Hi Alison

Have you had a chance to try the iPlayer yet?

I would like to talk to someone who has given it a go and has some thoughts about it, and the captioned material, for the Access 2.0 blog.

If you (or someone you know!) would be interested, please drop me a line.



Paul - I've been using iPlayer since May as a closed beta tester. Have been meaning to blog about it for a while, blogging has slipped as I have RSI in my shoulder ... thus trying to cut down on my typing.

I think I already have a draft post on here, will dig it out.

Hi Alison

Sorry to hear about the RSI. Nasty. I'm not after too much (I hope). Just an indication of any issues you may have found, whether you think its any good (or could be) and any enhancements you'd like to see...

Have a look at the last one I did: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/access20/2007/08/testdriving_the_iplayer.shtml.



Iplayer subtitle distribution is so broken it is not worth it at the moment.

Although most content claims to be subtitled, it works less than 1% of the time.

There is no indication they have a clue about why it is not working and give no idea when they will fix things.


See what I done by finding subtitled programmes.

See inside 1KB smil file. No subtitles.

Finally found subtitled one after 5 half minutes.

See iplayer with subtitles, worked in Full Screen too.

I agreed with Paul that iplayer is not worth doing at the moment. These youtube links is for bbc to see it and hopefully solve the problem as soon as possible.

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