Accessible content: ProSiebenSat.1 as a pioneer among the private media

Accessability at ProSiebenSat.1

It all started with “Forrest Gump“. In April of 2000 the Hollywood blockbuster starring Tom Hanks was the very first programme to be broadcast on ProSieben with subtitles. And our group has steadily been expanding its range of accessible content ever since.

At first, mainly movies and series were subtitled, but in 2015 the final of “Germany’s Next Topmodel – by Heidi Klum“ was the first live show aired with subtitles for deaf and aurally impaired viewers. “Die Medienanstalten“‘s annual monitoring shows that ProSiebenSat.1 Group is taking a leading role among private media here. The result reads that in the year 2020 across all channels of the group an average of 27 percent of all programmes was broadcast with special subtitles. On ProSieben the share was slightly over 44 percent.1

More than anywhere else, the great progress that ProSiebenSat.1 has made in the field of accessibility over the past few years shows in ProSieben’s successful show „Germany’s Next Topmodel – by Heidi Klum“. After first presenting live subtitles in 2015, the programme introduced audio description via its own “ProSieben AD“ app available for iOS and Android in 2019. Audio description is a service describing what can be seen on the screen to blind and visually disabled persons. From stage decorations to outfits or video clips used in the show, speakers explain everything that cannot be captured just from the regular audio alone in gaps between dialogues, using brief and precise words. And the next premiere is just around the corner. For the first time on May 27, 2021 the final show of “Germany’s Next Topmodel“ is going to be broadcast from Berlin in German sign language. The red button on the smart TV’s remote control or the final’s online stream allows fans of GNTM to follow the live translation.

For several years now, Charlotte Sorge, Senior Manager Acquisitions, Dubbing & Material, and her team have been championing the group’s progress in accessible content – successfully. “Eight years ago I had 34 formats with subtitles in my six-week statistic“, she remembers. “Today I have 2,500.“

For several years now, Charlotte Sorge, Senior Manager Acquisitions, Dubbing & Material, and her team have been championing the group’s progress in accessible content – successfully.
Lotte, you have been working in the field of accessibility at ProSiebenSat.1 for almost ten years. What special memories do you have from that time?

I still enjoy thinking back to when we first subtitled “Germany’s Next Topmodel“ live. Shortly before the 2015 season started, the Bavarian association of deaf persons asked us to provide subtitles here as well. But the final was a live show. In this case, demands and processes are much more complex than for formats produced in advance. We had never done that before. But we took the risk and we were rewarded. Everybody showed a great effort, some people still laying cables 15 minutes before the show started, and in the end it all worked wonderfully. And after the show we received numerous enthusiastic reactions from deaf GNTM fans. We were very excited about that.

The situation surrounding this year’s GNTM final is similarly exciting. For the first time the final will be broadcast in German sign language.

Yes, I am very glad that we have been able to continuously expand accessibility for “Germany’s Next Topmodel“ over the past few years. After subtitles and audio description, translation by sign language interpreters is our next step now. That is a great development. For so many people, sign language is their mother tongue. It is fantastic that we are making it visible now. In our interviews with the German chancellor candidates, we already employed sign language interpreters displaying them within the TV screen, visible for all viewers. And yet the GNTM final, when we do live streaming, will be extremely exciting again.

When it comes to preparations, what are the differences between sign language, live subtitles and audio description?

There is a tremendous difference. In the final of “Germany’s Next Topmodel“, viewers will be able to see the screen including sign language online or via HbbTV. So there is a lot of work to be done. We need interpreters and a seperate studio for them. All the connections have to work properly. And what’s more, HbbTV is not actually designed for live shows. So we need to make a few adjustments beforehand. There are also some smaller issues such as the interpreters‘ clothes which have to match the style of the show, of course. On the contrary, preparations for live subtitling and audio description are much less complicated. In those cases we do not carry out the main jobs ourselves, but we have them done by production companies. All we have left to do is to brief them.

What are your greatest challenges implementing accessibility?

More than anything we have to provide a certain balance in our content. Unfortunately, we are not yet capable of broadcasting our complete programme in a fully accessible way right now. Therefore we need to have some variety in our portfolio of accessible formats. After all, our viewers do not only want to watch series or big shows with subtitles or audio description but also documentaries or formats such as our recent interviews with the German chancellor candidates. Our goal is to become more diverse, thus reaching a wider audience. In the past we didn’t have sports in our repertoire, today we are providing the Super Bowl and the UEFA European Under-21 Championship with subtitles and even with audio description. And we are working hard every day to continue expanding our range.

Fans will find all information and links on accessibility in the GNTM final on www.gntm.de/barrierefrei

 

1 Results from the eighth monitoring on accessibility in private television by Die Medienanstalten.