Subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (SDH) have been present on French television since the late seventies. However, it was not until nearly thirty years after they first appeared that the practice was made mandatory on the main channels. In February 2005, the French government passed a law on equal rights and opportunities for disabled people which required all state-owned and private channels with a minimum annual audience share of 2.5% to use adapted subtitles in order to make 100% of their programming accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing by 12 February 2010. Following increasing complaints that regulations of this kind promoted a rapid increase in the quantity of SDH to the detriment of quality, the government produced a reference document about minimum SDH requirements. This document was signed by major SDH stakeholders and put into practice on 12 December 2011. Although this discipline is now recognised by the government, research into subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing in France is still very scarce. This doctoral research is the first on this subject in France and the first to involve French viewers of SDH at a national level.
Written in the form of three articles, this empirical study places itself within what translation theorist Holmes (2000, 176) defined as a product-oriented descriptive approach, with a restricted scope within the audiovisual text-type on the medium of television. The study of norms in a given place at a given time being the essence of this research project, this work centres on the rationale behind the theory of norms developed by Toury (1995), and extended by Chesterman (1997) and Hermans (1999), in the realm of subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Due to its complexity and its functional nature, SDH, and by extension this study, draws on different disciplines and areas of research—including Film Studies, Musicology, Deaf Studies, Linguistics, Psychology, and, within the realm of Translation Studies, interlingual subtitling, SDH theory, and live subtitling. Adopting a quantitative research strategy with a questionnaire as research method, this doctoral thesis examines whether deaf and HoH viewers of subtitles are satisfied with the norms of these subtitles as they are used on French television at the beginning of the second decade of the twenty first century.
This work first maps the practice of subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing in France, retraces its history and its main actors, and determines who defines and implements its norms and rules. Then it sets out to study whether the required output of SDH was met prior to and following the implementation of the 2005 law in February 2010 by analysing live and pre-recorded programmes with SDH between 2009 and 2010 on the five national channels with the highest annual audience share. Next, this study progresses to its core element, the questionnaire to SDH viewers conducted at a national level on the Internet, which evaluates French SDH norms, including the colour code. Finally, France’s national quality standard for SDH (Charte), which establishes minimum subtitling rules across television channels and programmes, is analysed considering the validity of the requirements it sets out for all of the stakeholders involved. The results suggest that there is ample room for improvement in the French norms and, by extension, in the Charte.
The full thesis can be read at the following address: http://www.tdx.cat/handle/10803/299539