Subtitles & Signing Advances On BBC iPlayer
Yesterday, BBC Director General Mark Thompson and the RNID held a reception at the House of Commons to celebrate 100% subtitling of programmes across the main BBC TV channels.
So what's changed?
Firstly, subtitles are now available for many iPlayer programme downloads, making iPlayer one of the only IPTV services in the world to include subtitles.
It is now easy to find these programmes - look out for "Include optional subtitles" on iPlayer programme information pages and "Subtitles available" in the iPlayer Download Manager. And to get the best subtitles experience, you may need to update your version of the iPlayer Download Manager - see here for more details.
So why is this not 100%?
It's a technology thing. We're currently concentrating on the delivery of subtitles for pre-recorded TV output, and have the technology and production processes in place to make this work. Our priority is to ensure that we deliver the correct subtitles for each downloadable programme as well as delivering the best viewing experience for the audience.
Going forwards, next on the roadmap is adding subtitles to iPlayer streams, which is something we're working hard on and hope to have ready some time in June or July.
After that we'll be looking at the possibility of making subtitles available for iPlayer on other platforms, such as the Wii or iPhone. We'll also be looking at the possibility of providing subtitles for those programmes which use live subtitles or those time-sensitive programmes which tend to change minutes before transmission. That's a whole new challenge.
I'll let you know how we fare.
Moving on to signing: in March, we added a dedicated Sign Zone area to iPlayer, allowing one-click access to all signed programmes. This means iPlayer has enabled the BBC to provide what many of our British Sign Language users have regularly asked us for - access to a directory of recent BBC signed programmes, and the ability to watch those programmes at a time which is convenient to them. The content is available in both streamed and download forms. It's even available on the iPhone.
We hope that the BSL community welcomes this move, and is now able to better access the BBC's Signed programmes.
We'd love to hear your feedback on subtitles or signed programmes on iPlayer, so please send any comments through to the BBC Usability & Accessibility Team.
Jonathan Hassell is Acting Head of Audience Experience & Usability, BBC Future Media & Technology.