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      Watching TV with subtitles

      Hearing loss shouldn't stop you from enjoying a night in watching television or joining in when your family or friends are talking about the latest 'must-see' show.

      How can I get subtitles on TV?

      Most TV channels have subtitles. Where they are available, you can usually get them by pressing the subtitles button on your remote control, or by pressing the menu button and following the options for language and subtitles.

      Catch-up TV

      Subtitles are also available on some catch-up TV. In February 2017, following our 'Subtitle it' campaign, parliament voted in favour of changing the law so that on-demand broadcasters will be legally required to provide minimum levels of subtitles. You won’t see the changes straight away, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on progress to end the digital exclusion of faced by people with hearing loss when watching on-demand TV and films.

      Currently, BBC iPlayer has subtitles on every programme while ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 have subtitles on more than 70% of their programmes. But, subtitles are not always available on all devices - although this is gradually changing (some programmes are available through All4 and My5 iPhone and iPad apps) - so you may have to watch on your computer or TV.

      What if I have problems receiving subtitles?

      If subtitles don’t appear, or disappear during the programme, it's probably because of a temporary technical problem, so make a note of the channel, time and programme and contact the relevant channel.

      You can take your complaint further by contacting Ofcom, the UK communications regulator. The Ofcom website has an online complaints form or you can call their Advisory Team. Ofcom doesn’t regulate the BBC channels, so you should take any complaints about these directly to the BBC.

      Subtitles on TV subscription services

      For a monthly fee (subscription), you can watch a wide range of films and TV programmes online through on-demand services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video. You can also rent DVDs and Blu-Rays, using services such as Amazon’s LOVEFiLM By Post. But, before signing up for any of these services, check whether they have subtitles – not all of them do. Many Netflix programmes are subtitled, as are more than half of the programmes on Amazon services. We are working with the main subscription-service providers to increase the amount of subtitled programmes that are available.

      Can I get subtitles on DVDs and Blu-ray?

      Many films and TV programmes on DVD and Blu-ray (a high-definition DVD format) have subtitles. Some DVDs have subtitles that include non-audio sound effects and speaker identification, as well as dialogue, so it’s easier for you to follow the film. Check the back of the DVD or Blu-ray box to see what subtitles are available.

      How do I access subtitles on DVDs?

      When you play a DVD, an introduction menu will usually appear on screen. If subtitles are available, select the ‘subtitles’ or ‘languages’ option before you play the film. You may also be able to switch the subtitles on using the subtitles button on the DVD or Blu-ray player remote control. ‘Bonus’ material doesn't always have subtitles.

      Where can I find signed TV programmes?

      The main TV channels (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) have some signed programmes – you can find out what they are by looking in the TV listings, or on each channel’s website. The signed programmes are usually spoken-English programmes translated into British Sign Language (BSL) by an interpreter at the bottom of the screen. However, BBC Two has a long-running magazine programme called See Hear, which is presented in BSL.

      The British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSLBT) commissions programmes that are presented in BSL – these are aired on the Community Channel, Film 4 and online at bslzone.co.uk. The BSLBT is funded by smaller TV channels, which give the Trust money instead of making their own signed programmes.

      Find out more about our Subtitle it! campaign aiming at improving access to subtitles on video-on-demand content