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Don’t shoot the messenger!

A few days ago, I was contacted directly by someone who works in the subtitling industry. I thought the request should not only be directed at me but have it thrown open to the public. He kindly gave approval as after all, this is regarding a public service. You have this opportunity to state your preferences regarding subtitling:

OK, I have a confession. I am a subtitler and manage access services for a number of smaller UK channels. We are one of the few channels in the UK that cover all subtitling in-house, namely me doing all of it.

I trawl the internet a lot looking out for preferences from viewers as well as industry conventions. Having been doing this for some years now and after a lot of work with other subtitling conventions and media, I hope we have a good balance of what is standard and what our viewers want. One of the main things my viewers feed back to me is positioning and to combat covering music videos’ content (after all a director spent a lot of time making it look pretty), we settled on raising subs to the top of the screen. What do you think?

I would be interested to hear from you about any other preferences you may have and whether you think the genre of subtitled material should also influence the style and convention of a subtitle file.

Is it mainly C4 and BBC that you have issues with regarding positioning? What about ITV and any of the digital or satellite channels?

I look forward to hearing from you,


and, an excerpt extracted from the 2nd email:

I have been working in subtitling for about 6 years after completing an MA in subtitling and translation (audio visual language transfer etc.). I also train subtitlers and have worked for a vast range of broadcasters and DVD companies here and abroad.

I have often thought it would be a good idea to reassess what viewers want. Ofcom have oft said the same but it’s never gone beyond some minor changes to their “recommendations”. We are, of course, always limited by technology and cost but I am very keen to know what people really want.

Although, the hub of the question concerned music video’s content, you can offer your opinions on any other programmes in general. Personally, I think subtitles should be at the very bottom of the screen and to disappear after adequate time to read it – rather than let the same sentence hang in mid-screen. Also, I really appreciated the differing colour of texts back (more commong in analogue service) to show who is saying what.

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