TV audio subtitling from Summer 2010: free of charge and accessible for everyone

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation will offer audio subtitling in all channels from Summer 2010 . This service will be free of charge and accessible for everyone, and will not require the purchase of a new receiver box.

Story by: Magne Lunde - 08.01.2009

The Audio subtitling project was completed 31st December 2008 after three years. The main objective of this project was to establish an audio subtitling service, and we are very happy that this goal has finally been achieved.

Universally designed

We had ambitions to establish the audio subtitling service before the completion of the project, and NRK was willing to start this service in autumn 2008. However both we and NRK wanted a universal designed service, which is why the service has had to be postponed until the start of Summer 2010.

Text subtitles on TV are played as synthetic speech i.e. audio subtitles. In practice, NRK will have synthetic speech installed on a computer to produce the audio subtitling, which is then distributed from this computer via the television network to receiver boxes in the home.

Options for language settings

All receiver boxes on the market have options for language settings, regardless of whether signals are received via antenna, cable or satellite dish, and NRK will use this option to distribute audio subtitling.

Ready mixed sound

TV sound is muted while the audio subtitling is played so it is easier to hear the audio subtitles. For this reason NRK plan to deploy a ready-mixed broadcast of subtitles and TV sound. Users will be able to choose between two options: TV-sound alone, or a ready-mixed broadcast with audio subtitles. This solution is preferable with respect to universal design, in that audio subtitling is accessible to all users, via antenna, cable or satellite, without any additional cost.

Two disadvantages

One disadvantage is of course that everyone must listen to the same sound. A separate receiver box would allow the user to determine the level of the finished sound mix, and also provide the possibility to listen to audio subtitles via headphones, allowing someone else to listen to TV sound only. Together with NRK we decided, however that a universally designed solution should weigh heavier than these two practical disadvantages.


Moreover, we will in cooperation with NRK work to provide audio subtitles via the Internet. This would make it possible to listen to ready mixed audio subtitles while others watch TV. The audio subtitling will be streamed over the Internet and a PC or Orion Web box can be used to listen to the ready mixed audio subtitling.

Audio description: same solution

>p>The same technical solution can also be used to distribute audio description of visual images for blind and visually impaired users. From Summer 2010 NRK will be able to broadcast audio described films and TV series.

Who should pay?

The challenge is to find a lasting solution to who should finance the production of audio description. Is it the responsibility of the TV companies and film producers, should public authorities undertake this, or should the responsibility be shared? This is a question which has been raised during the project, and MediaLT will, in cooperation with the Norwegian Federation for the blind, work actively to find a lasting solution to the question of funding. MediaLT has conducted the audio subtitling project on behalf of the Norwegian Federation for the Blind, and we thank them for this trust, and for good support and collaboration throughout the project. Thanks are also due to the Foundation for Health and Rehabilitation for supporting the project, and to the TV companies in general, and especially to Sven Prestvik in NRK for useful collaboration.

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