Rules and laws around subtitles in UK medias

UK Subtitles Regulations 



For Television & Broadcast Media

The United Kingdom has its own rules and regulations around subtitles for television and other broadcast media. Here’s an overview of the major laws, codes, and recommendations for subtitles in the UK.

The Broadcasting Act of 1990, Section 35 is the first piece of subtitle legislation. This act required public broadcasting stations to “provide minimum amounts of subtitling for deaf and hard-of-hearing people and to attain such technical standards in the provision of subtitling as the ITC specifies. ITC is a Technical Performance Code that governs technical standards for subtitles.

The Communications Act of 2003 replaced the Telecommunications Act of 1984. It consolidated regulatory authority of telecommunications and media within the Office of Communications (Ofcom). This Act expanded requirements for UK broadcasters to provide “television access services” like subtitling, sign language, and audio descriptors. These new provisions are specified, reviewed, and enforced by Ofcom.

Ofcom was created in 2002 by the Office of Communications Act. This is the regulatory authority for commercial televisions and radio broadcasts in the UK which strives to raise awareness of the benefits of subtitles and puts pressure on channels to add subtitles to their programming.

In May 2013, Ofcom found, in a study with Action on Hearing Loss, that:

  • 67% of people with hearing loss said that TV is important to them.
  • People with hearing loss watch TV for an average of 4. 3 hours a day.
  • 7. 5 million people have used subtitles to watch television, although 6 million of them do not have hearing loss.
  • Nearly half of respondents with moderate hearing loss use subtitles, rising to 73% for those who are profoundly or severely deaf.
  • Around 70% of those with hearing loss agreed that pre-recorded and live subtitling is significantly helpful.

Subtitles and closed captioning are not just a resource for deaf and hard of hearing persons, they are for everyone. There has been numerous research and studies over the last 20-30 years that suggest subtitles and closed captioning can help to improve reading skills, literacy and the retention of information.

For higher Education & Online Learning

With internet, an online course can be taken anywhere in the world and the learner might need to read Same Language Subtitles (SLS) to aid their understanding. Unlike the broadcast and telecommunications industry, which has strict specifications for subtitling, British universities and distance learning organizations are taking a proactive approach to web accessibility and adding subtitles to their videos.

UK Disability Laws that Affect Subtitling in Higher Education:

Equality Act of 2010 (EQA) is Great Britain’s landmark anti-discrimination law, comparable to the US’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
It condensed and replaced over 116 anti-discrimination laws into one document that protects individuals’ civil rights regardless of gender, sex, age, religion, political affiliation, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation. Employers are required to make “reasonable adjustments” to accommodate people with
disabilities. Accessibility requirements extend to public entities and universities, as well.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission of Great Britain published a comprehensive guide that clarify; requirements of employers, service providers, and institutes of higher education to accommodate people with disabilities.

With the proliferation of web-based content in course materials, it follows that British colleges and universities must legally make online multi-media accessible to students with disabilities. That means providing Braille, large-print, or screen reader versions of coursework to students with low vision, and transcribing and captioning videos for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the internationally recognized digital accessibility standard set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Regulatory bodies around the globe acknowledge WCAG for best practices in accessibility, whether formally or informally. It sets different levels of accessibility: A, AA, and AAA.
There are two versions of WCAG: 1. 0 and 2. 0. The first one is based on whether a web developer must, should, or could accommodate all users. The second version measures the degree to which a website observes all four accessible design values: making web content perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

Many reputable British universities mention WCAG in their accessibility policy. For example, Oxford University adheres to Level-AA standards of WCAG 2. 0. University of Cambridge requires that all new web pages conform to at least WCAG 2. 0 level AA or AAA whenever possible.

Operational Solution

Time-synchronized subtitles for pre-recorded video, or transcriptions for audio content, are required of even the lowest level of WCAG compliance, so any British institution that seeks to observe proper accessibility must transcribe and subtitle their videos.

Authôt is an online application that transforms multimedia content (audio or video) into text. This is an automatic transcription solution to obtain easily subtitle for videos.

This application is a real solution for all British actors as Universities, Institutions, TV Channels or Broadcast Media to meet the different requirements described above.


Authôt: You speak. We write.