Japanese TV broadcasters should introduce English subtitles in news programs by 2020 in light of an expected increase in the number of foreign visitors ahead of the Tokyo Olympics that year, according to an expert panel at the communications ministry.
“Subtitled television programs would serve as one of the most effective tools” to help foreign residents and tourists understand developments, the panel said Friday in a report.
The panel urged broadcasters to put English captions on news bulletins because they provide information related to people’s “safety and security.” The panel members said this should be done by 2020 “at the latest.”
They said the service should then be rolled out to other languages and other types of programming, such as sports and culture, as warranted.
The panel said broadcasters should adopt a multi-language approach, citing a translation system developed by the government-affiliated National Institute of Information and Communications Technology.
Broadcasters would submit text to the system, and viewers would see the subtitles displayed on Internet-enabled TV sets.
The panel said the system needs further improvements before it can accurately reflect on-screen narration. These include developing its database of possible phrases.
The ministry plans to start a trial run of the TV subtitle service in fiscal 2015.
The 12-member panel, headed by Dokkyo University law professor Kazuteru Tagaya, also proposed promoting the use of closed captions in Japanese in TV commercials for viewers with hearing difficulties.
Very few commercials offer closed captions, even though 93.3 percent of TV programs by private broadcasters and 83.5 percent by NHK had captions as of fiscal 2012, the panel said.