This news release is available in Spanish.
Researchers at the Laboratorio de Accesibilidad Audiovisual (Laboratory for Audiovisual Accessibility) in Universidad Carlos III of Madrid's Science Park have created a system that analyzes the contents of subtitles on DTTV. According to the data that is automatically gathered, 30 percent of channels fail to comply with current legislation regarding subtitling and accessibility.
The objective of this innovation, called SAVAT, is to automate the control of subtitled content on Digital Terrestrial Television (DTTV). To do so, the system records the signals of all channels and analyzes the subtitles, so it can then check the number of hours subtitling was emitted, its speed, the coherence of the signal and the accuracy of spelling, among other parameters. Its creators, researchers at the Centro Español del Subtitulado y la Audiodescripción (CESyA - the Spanish Center for Subtitling and Audio Description, a center that comes under the Real Patronato sobre Discapacidad - the Royal Trust for the Handicapped - managed by UC3M), have been working at the UC3M Laboratory for Audiovisual Accessibility of the Technology Center for the Handicapped and Dependents (Laboratorio de Accesibilidad Audiovisual del Centro de Tecnologías para la Discapacidad y Dependencia) to develop their own algorithm for detecting and calculating with greater than 95% precision the time that subtitles are available on each working television channel.
One of the keys to the system is that it carries out monitoring autonomously. "Before, it was very complicated to verify the presence or absence of subtitling on television, because with 30 channels with national range, inspection of more than 5000 hours of programming per week had to be done using human intervention," the researchers explain. "That kind of work can only realistically be done by automating it, and before SAVAT there was no tool in the world that was capable of doing that," indicates Mercedes de Castro, CESyA's technical coordinator.
Failure to comply with legislation
All of the information that this tool provides is stored in a database that can then be used to generate daily reports, and can even activate alarms when the obligations established by the Ley General de la Comunicación Audiovisual (LGCA - General Law on Audiovisual Communication) are not being met. The minimum levels of accessibility set by this regulation establish that public channels must emit 90% of their programming with subtitles (with 75% being the level for private channels). Regarding audio description and sign language, public television stations must emit 10 hours weekly using one of these services (2 hours weekly on private stations). During 2013 these levels have been slightly lower, as the LGCA provides for a transition period that will end on December 31st. After that, the stations will be obliged to reach the established levels, and incompliance will have to be detected within time frames of ten days. "SAVAT's protocol regarding the detection of incompliance of the LGCA includes recording the sequences of DVB/TDT signals that are necessary for proof during any future legal suit against the offending channels," explain the researchers. According to the data that they have collected, approximately 30 percent of stations currently fail to comply with the obligations established by the LGCA with regard to subtitling; the figure is greater with regard to audio description and sign language.
SAVAT can be sold as a service or product. In Spain, since 2012 it has been analyzing the broadcasts of the eight multiplex television stations with nationwide coverage. The results that have been obtained via the SAVAT system have enabled CESyA to become the model body for monitoring audiovisual accessibility in Spain. Both the incompliance alarms and the storage of proof constitute valuable tools for regulating bodies (the Ministry for Industry and the Commission on the Telecommunications Market), the representatives of associations related to the handicapped (CERMI, CNSE, FIAPAS, etc.) and stations with local, autonomic and national broadcasts themselves. The next step, according to its creators, will be the international marketing of the system, since it can be put to use in any of the 86 countries that have adopted DVB digital television standards (all of the countries in Europe, part of Africa, South America, Asia and Oceania).
The Laboratory for Audiovisual Accessibility in UC3M's Science Park is developing technology to guarantee individual's access to the information society. Among its services are web access (structure and contents), access to cinema, DTTV and to the theater (prototype of subtitles, tools) and accessible doors.
Laboratorio de Accesibilidad Audiovisual Parque Científico UC3M (Laboratory for Audiovisual Accessibility in UC3M's Science Park)
Centro Español del Subtitulado y la Audiodescripción (CESyA - Spanish Center for Subtitling and Audio Description):
Centro de Tecnologías para la Discapacidad y Dependencia UC3M (Technology Center for the Handicapped and Dependents: