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Setting the standard for TV subtitles

Brunel academics worked with the United Nations and the European Commission to produce a global standard for subtitling digital TV programmes and demonstrated how broadcasters could introduce the system.

The project, Digital Television for All (DTV4All), relies on the main content being delivered to a digital TV then the subtitles and/or sign language interpretation is separately delivered to a set-top box via the internet which then synchronises the two together.

Led by Dr Takebumi Itagaki and Dr Thomas Owens, DTV4All recommendations have been adopted by the UN’s International Telecommunications Union and will become enforceable regulations within its 193 nation membership.

But DTV4All’s eventual aim is to see those with hearing loss to benefit from subtitles or signing interpretation across all platforms – broadcast, cable, satellite and the internet.

One of the key elements of the new standards is that a viewer can alter the size of the font in the subtitles – a functionality that will become increasingly important with a rapidly ageing population suffering both failing eyesight and hearing problems.