Future Media Standards & Guidelines

Subtitling Guidelines v1.0

1. Purpose

1.1. This document defines the BBC's requirement to deliver subtitles/captions for the following types of audio and video content on BBC online (bbc.co.uk):

  • Scheduled
  • Off-schedule
  • Archived programmes
  • Marketing trails
  • User-generated content
  • Games

1.2. This document does not explain how to create subtitles. For more information on how to do this and the workflows involved, refer to the relevant documents listed in section 2 below.

Top of page

2. Related documents

2.1. For further information on how to provide subtitles, and the technologies you must use to deliver them, refer to the following documents:

Top of page

3. Definitions

3.1. In this document we use the following terms:

  • EBU-STL subtitles files
  • European Broadcasting Union format for broadcast subtitles files.

  • Timed-text subtitles files
  • W3C format for providing standardized timed-text files that synchronise with other elements, such as audio and video files, and software and hardware devices.

Top of page

4. Providing subtitles for full-length scheduled programmes

4.1. Full-length scheduled programmes and their associated broadcast subtitles MUST be made available online through iPlayer. Since subtitling for scheduled programmes is already provided using the iPlayer workflow, you do not need to provide subtitles/captions for scheduled programmes.

Top of page

5. Providing subtitles for non-scheduled programmes

5.1. This section describes how to provide subtitles for off-schedule programmes, archived programmes, marketing trails, user-generated content, and games.

5.2. Currently (as of December 2008), providing subtitles/captions is optional for all types of online off-schedule A/V content, including archived programmes, marketing trails, user-generated content, and games. A review is planned to evaluate this by mid 2009.

5.3. However, where broadcast subtitles files already exist for audio and video content, you SHOULD include them on your site.

5.3.1. This includes clips from scheduled programmes already transmitted using iPlayer that have broadcast subtitles files available, marketing trails that have previously been broadcast with subtitles, and archived programmes that were previously broadcast with subtitles.

5.3.2. You SHOULD make arrangements to retrieve broadcast subtitles files for off-schedule, archived programmes and marketing trails. Refer to How to retrieve and repurpose existing EBU-STL subtitles files for A/V content.

5.4. You SHOULD provide subtitles/captions that can be turned off and on for all other types of off-schedule audio and video content, including AV content featured in interactive features or games, unless you have evidence that the business costs are a risk to the success of the project fruition.

5.5. Prior to starting a project that involves audio and video content, you SHOULD contact Andrew Strachan in the Usability and Accessibility Team in Central UX&D to discuss how subtitles could be best provided for it.

Top of page

6. How to create and provide subtitles

6.1. Having considered the length of the audio and video content needing to be subtitled and the budget of the project, you can either:

  • Create the subtitles file yourself; or
  • Get a third party subtitling supplier to create the subtitles files.

6.2. Subtitles files MUST be in one of the following two formats and you MUST ensure the formatting instructions provided in the referenced technical documentation are followed when they are created:

6.3. If contracting out, you MUST ensure the supplier can provide subtitles which conform to the current BBC subtitling guidelines and the formatting instructions for EBU-STL and Timed-Text subtitles format, as listed in section 3 above.

Top of page

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.