Deaf News: Action on Hearing Loss survey shows 46% of deaf people unhappy with news subtitles

Posted on December 13, 2012


The UK charity Action on Hearing Loss is calling on producers of television news programmes to ensure that timely and accurate subtitles are available for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, following a survey by the charity which showed 46% of respondents experienced problems with television news subtitling.

The charity used data gathered from 580 survey responses to reveal the problems experienced by viewers who rely on television subtitles. 62% of respondents who experience problems with subtitles complained of delays between speech and subtitles, 45% about the poor accuracy of subtitles and 36% said the absence of subtitles is a problem. Almost half of respondents (46%) said they experienced problems with subtitles on news programmes, followed by entertainment (18%) and drama programmes (16%).

Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss, Paul Breckell, says: “It is very disappointing that viewers who rely on subtitles are being deprived of the right to access important news about the country or their community because subtitles are not available, accurate or appearing at the right time on screen. Many deaf people end up with an experience like playing the missing words round of Have I Got News for You? as they need to guess what the subtitles should have said.

“News programmes use live subtitling which is often unnecessary and subject to both a high volume of errors and time lags between the subtitles and live pictures. We urge television news producers to use more pre-recorded synchronised subtitles which would bring better accuracy and a substantially improved service for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Action on Hearing Loss has passed the survey results to Ofcom, which is currently addressing the problems that contribute to poor quality subtitling.

The charity is urging people to contact television channels directly when they experience problems with programme subtitles. For more information, visit

Further reading on live subtitles:

BBC Ouch: Charlie’s subtitle diary:

The Guardian: The pigs that love to eat, er, willies:

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