Posts tagged BBC
Posts tagged BBC
BBC doesn’t usually discriminate. However with the iPlayer, they’ve done a wonderful thing - bought “catch-up” TV to the general public in UK that works very well, and is nearly 100% subtitled. It’s a fantastic service.
Fast forward to today, with the explosion of smartphones in UK with the iPhone and Android models grabbing a large and growing share of the mobile market in UK, with Android phones having the largest share (currently it have a 34% share worldwide, overtaking Nokia’s Symbian platform which is now at 27.4% and shrinking).
Tablets are set to grow very rapidly too, Apple’s iPad having a huge share, but now that Android tablets are coming out, it’s expected that they will eventually overtake iPad share-wise.
The important difference between iOS devices and Android devices is that on Android you are able to play Adobe Flash - which BBC’s iPlayer make heavy use of (and is where you get subtitles). You can get iPlayer on iOS devices, which doesn’t use Flash, but with no sutbtitles etc.
However iPlayer on Android doesn’t work for the deaf -despite using Flash, there are NO SUBTITLES. Numerous complains to iPlayer, via email and Twitter seems to fall on deaf ears. I was informed indirectly that it’s a technological limit. So let’s test this shall we?
Tested Phone: Nexus One (Rooted)
Android platform: 2.3.3
This phone is a rooted phone and allows me to change the User Agent in the browser. So here goes.
Keeping the User Agent to Android (default) as shown:
This is what BBC iPlayer (Mobile version) looks on Android Browser:
So let’s select Have I Got News For You
(you might see a ghost text “Remote Web Desktop has been granted Superuser permissions” above - this is just an app that I use to take screenshots on my phone straight to my laptop, but I didn’t wait for it to disappear before taking screenshot)
So let’s play Have I Got News For You - it’s using Adobe Flash in the browser.
Going a bit further into the programme, I show the seek bar below. You will see there is no “S” button to enable subtitles. There are no subtitles playing and there are no options anywhere to enable subtitles. The video plays fine. It’s smooth, doesn’t jerk etc and show in landscape just fine. Just no subtitles. It’s about as good as watching paint dry for me though.
BBC might claim that there’s no room to put in a S button, the seek bar is very narrow on Android (sigh…you could use pinch-zoom but that’s not ideal that’s true - but you can make it bigger on landscape, problem solved!)
Hmm bigger seek bar? Let’s look at the official BBC iPlayer app for Android, so here’s how it looks on Android playing Have I got News For You with the seekbar showing:
As you can see above, the iPlayer App make use of a larger seekbar. It is also using Flash here. There certainly is room to put in a S button there. Switch it to landscape mode, and there are ample room to put in half a dozen S button’s! So no subtitles.
So let’s test to see if this technical limitation is genuine shall we?
Switching my Android Browser’s User Agent to Linux Desktop:
BBC iPlayer in Browser - you can see it’s showing the full desktop version of the website below:
Selecting Have I Got News For You - it’s still the desktop version…
Starting Have I Got News For You…Hmm what’s that in the seek bar I see?
Yup…it’s a S button for subtitles. Surely that’s impossible? It probably doesn’t work? Right?
Holy Shit Sherlock! That’s subtitles. Must have backup evidence…
Yup. The video plays smoothly. It doesn’t jutter or jerk. It plays fine in landscape. And WITH SUBTITLES! It’s perfectly readable on my mobile for me, it’s not too small either. Just right.
So dear BBC - Android is more than capable of playing with subtitles. It works. The evidence is there. All of the above is the same on an Tablet (tested on ASUS Transformer with Android 3.1) too by the way - I have to switch the User Agent to Desktop to play subtitles on iPlayer too.
Android tablets with Android 3 typically have 1280x800 resolution, the same as many laptops with screen sizes up to 15”. It’s more than capable of playing with subtitles too but BBC chose to not show subtitles (Android tablets use the same Flash version as you get on Android mobiles).
Do I think BBC is discriminating against the deaf? Well, I’ve complained about this for a long time now and they’ve given no notice as to when they’ll sort it out. I’ve tweeted about this to the iPlayer team and no replies from them. My tweets have been retweeted qutie a few times now and still no replies.
It’s hard not to. However I do believe that iPlayer aren’t trying to discriminate against the deaf. I think they just need a “kick” to wake them up to the fact that subtitles does work and there is a real demand/need for it by not just the deaf. Plenty of people might want to watch iPlayer on the bus perhaps, where it’s too noisy to listen (assuming they’re able to get it working fine over 3G)
Craig Butcher wrote an open letter to the entertainment industry - which can equally apply to the BBC iPlayer too.
All of the above was for Android which use Flash. For iOS it’s a different story and there’s a genuine technical issue to getting subtitles (it doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it can be done, but resources would have to be spent to enable it as iOS does not use Flash)