Just a little thing

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I used to have a work colleague who complained about people saying “could you just?” at work.  Could you just check this over for me?  Could you just remind me how to do Y?  He complained that the sum total of the “could you just” demands on him made big inroads into his productive work time.  One “could you just” was such a little thing – how could you refuse?  But they add up.

Sometimes I feel a similar thing about the minor irritants of deafness.  One such thing – poof! – it’s nothing, taking no time to sort out.  But the drip, drip, drip of a series of minor irritants – well, that can get you down.

My recent example of this is so trivial I’m almost embarrassed to tell you about it, but here goes.

One of my favourite TV programmes is Homeland.  Channel 4 used to be really bad at On Demand subtitling. They subtitled many of their programmes when they were screened “live” but not when they transferred to All4, their catch-up channel.  So I had to watch Homeland on Sunday evenings at 9pm.  But then there was a giant leap forward.  Channel 4 upped their game and subtitles became available for lots of programmes on All4, including Homeland.  Hurrah.  Series 6 started after Christmas and I have been settling down to watch it at any old time, just like hearing people can.

However, twice since the start of the series (in the UK they have just screened episode 7) I have settled down with iPad and cup of tea but then….whoah….no subtitles.  I’d turn the iPad off and on again (in time-honoured “solve anything on a computer” mode)….no difference.  Wait a day…..just the same.  So I emailed Channel 4 complaints (twice).  Impressively, both times they replied within a day or two and the missing subtitles were rectified.  Then I watched the episodes.

Hardly an existential crisis is it?  Woman has favourite TV programme delayed by a couple of days on two occasions.  Woman could have watched it “live” anyway.  But it is so annoying.  If they are going to subtitle something, subtitle it consistently.  If it is going to take a few days to transfer the subtitles from the live programme to the catch-up channel then tell us that and we’ll wait.  Just let us know.

I think the annoyance comes from being reminded, yet again, that my ears don’t work.  Living with deafness is difficult.  Sometimes I just need to chill out and do something that doesn’t involve hearing; to have times when I feel normal.  Those times are precious and it is dispiriting to settle down for such a session and be thwarted.  No big deal in the scale of things to miss a TV programme, I know, but it’s the equivalent of my friend’s “can you just” complaint – another little irritant to add to a long list.

Still, there is good news.  Very recently Action on Hearing Loss announced a big victory in the campaign to force On Demand TV providers to subtitle their programmes.  I wrote about their campaign in a post Subtitle It! a year ago.  To begin with, the evidence for the very poor subtitling performance of On Demand TV companies fell on deaf ears (ha ha) in Parliament.  Progress was being made, they told us.  It was all very technically difficult, they said.  We would just have to be patient.

But recently the government has had a change of heart.  Perhaps letters to MPs (I wrote to mine) made a difference.  Perhaps a different Culture Secretary got the point that a previous incumbent had missed.  Anyway, legislation has been passed promising the introduction of some sort of quota.  You can read about it here.  It is a victory.  I suppose it is also a victory of sorts that I can write to Channel 4 complaining about missing subtitles, get an answer within a couple of days and (most importantly) get the subtitles actioned.  I just wish I didn’t have to faff about doing it.

PS Episode 7 was excellent and I’m glad I didn’t miss it.

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8 thoughts on “Just a little thing

  1. A few years back I emailed ITV about the lack of subtitles on their catch-up service and they politely told me that subtitling was not one of their priorities. That’s nearly as big a “F Off!” As the Channel 5 reply above.

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  2. You are so right! My bugbear is a programme called Longmire on 5USA. Not only are there no subtitles at all (although there used to be!) but the sound is abysmal and some of the dialogue completely indecipherable – even for my hearing hubby. We record it and rewind/replay bits we just can’t get. He gets one word, I get another and between us we piece it together. It’s almost like a TV crossword! So hurrah for Henry who we both understand perfectly and boo to Vic(toria) who mumbles everything – up with the native Indians and down with the white men (and women!) we say 🙂

    So taking a leaf out of your book Vera I shall write to 5USA and complain. Watch this space.

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    1. Hi. Good to hear from you. If complaining weren’t so time consuming I would do more of it – it does sometimes have an effect. Good luck with 5USA.

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      1. Mentioning subtitles is like opening a can of worms. Yes, it is improving. My own bete-noir is the news. Live subtitles always a little behind, which I can accept. What I find particularly annoying is when a subtitled sentence stops halfway and never finishes. I’m left having no idea what is going on.

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      2. Hi Margaret.
        I confess I have stopped watching the news on TV; the subtitling was too ridiculous for words. Sport I can just about manage (I only really watch athletics). I find out vaguely what is going on although the subtitles sometimes hide the runners on the track. And yes, isn’t it infuriating when the words give out mid-stream. Maybe live subtitling technology will get better eventually. Hope so anyway.

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      3. Good job I didn’t hold my breath – this is Channel 5’s response:-
        “Unfortunately we did not subtitle Series 4 of Longmire as this series was and is shown only on 5 USA for which the subtitle budget is lower than Channel 5. We are very sorry to disappoint you and have logged your disappointment for the attention of all relevant personnel.”

        I’ll investigate what their obligations are.
        Which leads me back to your title “Just a little thing”. If each “little thing” takes this much effort, it’s no wonder it gets us down. Heyho – onwards and upwards.

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      4. Not good. Maybe the Subtitle It! legislation will get them in the end. Just to continue the moaning, yesterday I thought about buying from iPlayer six episodes of a historical programme that is no longer available on catch-up but very useful for a class I will be running this autumn. All episodes were subtitled when shown live but ony four out of the six on the “box set”. Now why would you do that?? Subtitle all of them? Yes please. None of them? At least it treats them all the same. But four out of six?? Weird.

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