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Ongoing Projects
Same Language Subtitling on National Television:


SLS has been field tested extensively since 1997, primarily to evaluate the following: a) whether the idea has acceptance among non-, early, and fully literate people; b) gains in terms of literacy skills; c) relevance for promoting a culture of reading; and d) information and knowledge gain.To summarize:

a) Viewer response to SLS was found to be overwhelmingly positive in field tests in villages, urban slums, the Ahmedabad railway station, and a School for the Deaf. It was established that SLS enhances the entertainment value of songs on video for early and fully literate viewers, alike. Furthermore, non-literates were not averse to the idea (Kothari 1998; Kothari 2000).

b) Two separate studies found that SLS contributes to reading skill improvement. In a controlled experiment with primary school children, greater improvement in reading skills was found in the group that saw subtitled songs as compared to the group that saw songs without subtitles (Kothari et al., 2001a). Subsequently, SLS was implemented in a natural setting. Chitrageet, a weekly Gujarati film song program was shown, with SLS, on State television in Gujarat. With a partially literate sample drawn from villages and city slums - not attending formal or non-formal education -- it was found that people who watched the subtitled Chitrageet regularly, showed greater improvement in reading skill than people who did not see the program or saw it rarely (Kothari et al., 2001b). The improvement was incremental in both the studies (the only kind of improvement to be expected with short-term exposure to subtitling). More importantly, improvement was consistently found in the subtitled group members. Participants' qualitative assessments of SLS further confirmed the idea's popularity among viewers. The power of SLS lies, thus, in the lifelong incremental contribution it can make on a mass scale, by further enhancing entertainment.

c) A qualitative analysis of post-card feedback from Chitrageet viewers confirmed that, because of the reading component that was added, parents were encouraging children to watch the program, teachers and literacy instructors were linking the program with their learning activities, the hard of hearing were happy to be able to "listen" to the lyrics better, children were trying to write down the lyrics as they appeared on the screen, and so on. Song requests poured in regularly so that people could hear and write the lyrics of their favorite songs. There were even claims by people that the program had rekindled their ability to read (presumably lost due to relapse). Of the nearly 3500 post-cards received in six months, only three post-cards were inimical to the idea.

d) Buoyed by the success of subtitled Chitrageet, another program, Geet Tamara, Bol Amara (Your Songs, Our Words) is presently being telecast on State television in Gujarat, with some key differences. Gujarati folk songs are shown instead of film songs. A competition is run on the program. Two questions are asked on every episode, one based on the lyrics of any given song (to persuade people to read carefully) and a general question on an issue of social significance, such as, "What is the minimum age of marriage, for girls?" A winner is chosen by lottery from the correct responses received (by post) and a two-in-one player given away on every episode. All correct respondents receive a poster of the song lyrics. A survey and post-card analysis has shown that the program is generating knowledge and thinking around important social issues while also creating a reading environment through the lyrics posters and subtitling.

The approach in 'd' is suggested because it invites viewer participation and encourages family/local level discussions around socially relevant issues. Interactivity between the program and viewers will be further enhanced by reading people's letters on the program and responding to song requests.

The following conditions are required for the project to be replicable: a) low levels of literacy among the population; b) a reasonably high level of TV penetration, especially among people in need of skill improvement; c) a ready resource of film, folk, or other types of song footage; and d) a passion for watching song videos on TV. These conditions exist in most of India, including Kerala, the most literate state. In fact, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal, Orissa, and States in the enormous Hindi belt already watch film-song based programs in the regional languages, telecast by their respective state television centers (Doordarshan Kendras or DDKs).

Many of these states have witnessed and/or continue to have a thriving film industry that has produced a bottomless resource of film songs. Folk and other types of song footage is also produced regularly by the DDKs. The proposed project is to air one weekly Hindi film song program nationally, with subtitles and with its popularity and impact on reading, leverage DDKs and private channels across the country to add subtitling to existing song programs. SLS is remarkably replicable in India and internationally (e.g., a Bengali program in West Bengal has relevance in Bangladesh, a Hindi program is relevant in Pakistan, and a Tamil program in Sri Lanka). The idea also has relevance for other parts of the world that have a high literacy rate but low levels.

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Same Language Subtitling on Television

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