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Ofcom's final review of live subtitling

Posted on 27/11/2015

Ofcom's final report monitoring the accuracy of live subtitles has been published today (27 November 2015). The report assesses a sample of programmes for accuracy, speed and latency - the delay between speech and the corresponding subtitle appearing - of live TV subtitles.  

It is the last in a series of four reports on live subtitling that Ofcom has produced over a two year period, to improve the service for deaf and hard of hearing viewers.  

Our response

Dr Roger Wicks, Action on Hearing Loss Director of Policy and Campaigns, says: 'Good quality subtitling is vital for people with hearing loss to be able to watch and enjoy live TV and we welcome the continuing improvements identified by Ofcom in their report.  We would also like to congratulate the broadcasters on the progress that has already been made, particularly in relation to accuracy. It is fantastic to see the TV industry working more closely together to ensure that the subtitle companies have access to more information in advance of live shows, such as scripts and running orders to enable higher quality subtitles to be produced.  

'We are excited by the new innovations from the BBC's Technology development team, which can help to reduce the delay or latency of live subtitles which make a huge difference to people with a hearing loss when watching live TV. Action on Hearing Loss research shows that the lag between speech and the subtitles appearing on screen is the biggest complaint for people with hearing loss and we urge all broadcasters to take up and invest in this technology development.  

'Ofcom's work to improve the quality of live subtitles has been vital in driving up standards in the TV industry and we would like to thank them for their perseverance on this issue. It is important for Ofcom to maintain an overview of the quality of live subtitles to ensure that continuing improvements are made. We look forward to seeing the findings from Ofcom's next research to further understand the views of subtitle users.'  

Ofcom's key findings include:           

  • The overall accuracy of live subtitling remains very good at over 98%.
  • The average 'latency' of subtitles - the time lag between words being spoken and corresponding subtitles appearing on screen - was 5.6 seconds, well above Ofcom's recommended level of three seconds.
  • Ofcom's reports have shown that trade-offs sometimes need to be made between different aspects of subtitling quality, such as latency and speed. Ofcom intends to commission further research to understand how subtitle users would prefer these trade-offs to be struck. Following publication of this research in early 2016, Ofcom will consult on whether changes to its guidelines and rules are necessary.  

Find out more

Read our report, Getting The Full Picture, for more information on our research and findings on the quality of live subtitles.  

For more information on our Access to TV campaign, including how you can make a complaint if you experience problems with the quality of subtitles in a TV programme, please visit our Campaigns Pages:  

For media enquiries  

Please contact Gorki Duhra, Senior PR Officer, on:
Tel: 07944 038635  

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