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Digital Television and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Audiences in Wales
Swansea University Author: Yan Wu
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This document summarises the main statistical findings from a survey of digital television viewing patterns and barriers to accessibility for deaf/hard of hearing audiences in Wales. The survey ran during the entire month of August 2013, and was part of a research project based at Swansea University...
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This document summarises the main statistical findings from a survey of digital television viewing patterns and barriers to accessibility for deaf/hard of hearing audiences in Wales. The survey ran during the entire month of August 2013, and was part of a research project based at Swansea University, funded by Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, BBC Wales, Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol and S4C. The survey aimed to gain a better understanding of some of the benefits that digital television have brought to viewers in Wales and some of the barriers to enjoying television services that affect viewers who have hearing loss.This research firstly provided a general mapping of deaf/hard of hearing digital television audiences in Wales. Respondents to this survey are mainly elderly people, with more than 60% of the respondents aged over 65 and predominantly female. Audience members came from different parts of Wales. However, the predominant ethnicity for the survey respondents is White Welsh or White British. About 15% of the respondents understand spoken Welsh, 7% read Welsh and a further 5.8% could be regarded as fluent Welsh users. The majority of the survey respondents wear digital hearing aids (68%) and about one third lip read (30%). The findings also suggest that 5% of the survey respondents use British Sign Language and 8% use Sign Supported English.In terms of media consumption, 96% of the respondents use broadcast television for information, entertainment and education. Public broadcasters (especially the BBC) are regarded as the major sources of information. The average hard of hearing audience watches 3.39 hours television per day and more than half of respondents (57%) watch 2-5 hours television per day. We also identified a significant percentage of audiences (around one third) viewing television via online services and applications (such as iPlayer and Clic) or accessing recorded programmes stored on a PVR or DVD. Television via other platforms, such as paid on-demand services and social media sites such as YouTube, currently have a small percentage of users. However it indicates a rising alternative platform to the mainstream broadcasting. The traditional television channels remain the central information source for deaf and hard of hearing audiences. News, documentaries and drama are the three most preferred television genres.The provision of Welsh television content is welcomed by deaf and hard of hearing audiences in Wales. Both television programmes spoken in Welsh language and programmes provided with subtitles in the Welsh language serve to enhance the television viewing experience, deepen the audience’s appreciation of local culture and provide resources for the learning of the Welsh language.This study has established that subtitles are the most important facilitating tool for deaf and hard of hearing audiences in their understanding of television programming. Common problems associated with sound quality and subtitles affect both the wider audience as well as deaf or hard of hearing audience. However, for the deaf or hard of hearing audience, where a significant number rely on digital hearing aids (68%) and also lip read (about one third), the demand for better sound quality and better subtitling service is more acute. This survey has identified a number of barriers facing people who are deaf or hard of hearing in Wales in accessing information, education and entertainment via digital television. Barriers were identified mainly in the areas of sound quality and subtitles.Finally, we would like to make the following recommendations: Ofcom guidelines on the quality of subtitles should be further implemented. An awareness campaign is needed to help deaf and hard of hearing audiences to understand the full range of interactive services available on the digital television platform, including altering the size and colour of subtitles, and switching on Welsh language subtitles. Accredited deaf and hard of hearing awareness training should be ensured for public broadcasting staff as well as commercial programme producers. Such training should exemplify European standards such as the R128 Loudness specification and the best practice in dealing with issues such as background noise in news production. More opportunities for people who are deaf and hard of hearing to take part in media co-production. Broadcasters should consider the identified needs from people who are deaf and hard of hearing for more Welsh language subtitles.
This report has been presented to the BBC, S4C and Action on Hearing Loss. S4C made relevant technical changes based on the recommendations offered in this report.
digital television, hard of hearing audiences, wales, barriers of accessibility
College of Arts and Humanities