Darryl Gee: On demand TV’s lack of subtitles is unfair

Posted on November 13, 2012



“Entertainment your way”, “Believe in better”, and “An exciting place to live.” TV nowadays is fantastic isn’t it! I’ve been a Sky subscriber for some years now.

I love the TV guide that highlights shows in white so you can just see what has subtitles, rather than putting the channel on and holding your breath for the 5 or so seconds it takes to load up the subtitles (or not!). The channels Sky run themselves are very often subtitled, apart from maybe a 9pm movie on Sky 2.

Sadly I’m not writing this just to praise the company!

The modern trend with all TV providers is to provide an on-demand service for their shows and subtitles. I was excited when Sky told me to plug my internet router into my Sky box to access their new anytime+ service (now called catch-up TV).

Full series box sets, movies, loads of shows, best of all as I work anti-social hours, I could watch them whenever I want!

I started downloading ‘40 Year Old Virgin’, a film I had meant to watch for quite some time, but had never got round to. After starting the download, it pinged up on screen “available to start watching”. Brilliant. I grabbed a can of beer and some crisps, got comfy and selected the film. It was great quality, no stutter, no delay, and yet… no subtitles!

I thought it might just be the one film, so I tried another, and another. No joy.

I even tried a film that was currently showing live on TV with subtitles. Nothing. Tried a few TV shows, again, nothing.

A great service from Sky, but not for deaf people. I thought I’d e-mail them and complain, but a look on the Sky forum message boards told me everything I needed to know. Some people had been told that they would have to wait, other had been told that the subtitle files were too large. I’m sure a subtitle file isn’t even a megabyte in size!

If BBC iPlayer can do it, why can’t Sky?! I was tempted to ring them and threaten to take my custom to Virgin, but it turns out their customers are in the same boat. BT vision provide subtitles on their catch up TV, but when I went to my mothers house, I found out that the subtitles had to be turned on every single time I changed channel. For a channel-hopper like me, that’s no good either!

I remember when I was a kid, watching See Hear, and having them tell me that interpreters will pop on screen with the push of a button when we enter the digital age. Sadly this ain’t the case, in fact I’m sure that all these providers are breaking some sort of equal access law… anyone heard of it, Equality Act 2010 I think?

Darryl is a Yorkshireman born and bred. He’s a CSW and a BSL tutor at Calderdale College. Darryl was born hearing, and became profoundly deaf after an accident at school when he was 5. He had a cochlear implant aged 11. He comes from a deaf family, so he has been using BSL all his life. He loves his job, “especially showing young deaf adults that they can do anything they want with their lives.”

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