iplayer_substitlesThe BBC is trialling the use of subtitles on live programmes watched through its iPlayer, an innovation it says is a world “first” for any major video on-demand service.

Initially limited to PC and Mac computers with Flash, the service will eventually be rolled out to smartphones and tablets and connected TV platforms.

According to the broadcaster around 20% of all on-demand programmes viewed on BBC iPlayer are watched with subtitles, suggesting “huge demand” exists for the feature to be extended to live content.

Gareth Ford Williams, head of accessibility at the BBC, said: “The BBC is already a world-leading provider of accessible services– but we know there is always more to do.

“We want to ensure our content and services are accessible to everyone – and this trial will give viewers who are deaf or hearing-impaired access to even more programming than ever before.”

Dr. Roger Wicks from Action on Hearing Loss said: “We welcome this breakthrough from the BBC, which is a huge step in the right direction for full accessibility for people who are deaf or have a hearing loss.

“Our Subtitle It! campaign has been working towards increasing online broadcasters’ use of subtitles on online content and we’re delighted that the BBC is leading the way by trialling this new feature.”