Deaf News: BBC launches trial of subtitles on live channels on BBC iPlayer

Posted on July 28, 2016

In a move that will be welcomed by deaf viewers, the BBC has announced that it has begun trialling subtitles on its live channels on BBC iPlayer.

It has long been a source of frustration for deaf viewers that only pre-recorded, on demand programmes have so far featured subtitles when viewed online, so this is a major breakthrough.

That said, it’s clear that this is a trial, and the subtitles don’t look quite right just yet. We’ve just tried out BBC1 via the iPlayer, and this is how the subtitles currently look:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 10.16.17

The BBC press release says:

In a first for any major video on-demand service in the world, the BBC has begun trialling subtitles for live channels on BBC iPlayer. To date, subtitles have only been available for on-demand programmes.

The trial, currently available on PC and Mac computers* will allow deaf and hearing-impaired viewers to watch more BBC TV programmes wherever and whenever they want. The BBC will test and improve the feature over the coming months before it is rolled out to BBC iPlayer’s app for mobiles and tablets – and over time to Connected TVs.

With almost 2m programmes a day or 20% of all on-demand programmes watched using subtitles on BBC iPlayer – there is already huge demand for this feature to be extended to live content too.

Gareth Ford Williams, head of accessibility for the BBC said: “The BBC is already a world-leading provider of accessible services– but we know there is always more to do. We want to ensure our content and services are accessible to everyone – and this trial will give viewers who are deaf or hearing-impaired access to even more programming than ever before.”

Dr. Roger Wicks from Action on Hearing Loss said: “We welcome this breakthrough from the BBC, which is a huge step in the right direction for full accessibility for people who are deaf or have a hearing loss. Our Subtitle It! campaign has been working towards increasing online broadcasters’ use of subtitles on online content and we’re delighted that the BBC is leading the way by trialling this new feature.”

The trial subtitles are available on the following channels:

BBC One Northern Ireland (HD)
BBC One Scotland (HD)
BBC One Wales (HD)
BBC Two (HD)
BBC Four (HD)
CBeebies (HD)
BBC News (HD)

For access to subtitles on BBC Two in Wales, Scotland and N. Ireland go to or select England from the ‘Change location’ menu.

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Posted in: deaf news