98 subtitlers resigned from Broadcast Text International in Finland


98 subtitlers have resigned from Broadcast Text International in Finland after having been outsourced there by MTV Media, a major commercial broadcasting company.

On October 1st, 110 subtitlers working under freelance contracts were outsourced to BTI International, a subsidiary of Broadcast Text International. According to Finnish law, outsourced employees have a right to resign without notice during the first month after the deal – 98 subtitlers chose to use that right.

The subtitlers were concerned about being outsourced to a company that pays its current subtitlers minimal wages, forces them to become entrepreneurs instead of employees, claims all copyrights to subtitles and declines attempts to negotiate collective agreements.

Finnish universities issued a statement dated on October 17th in which they criticised the outsourcing. They also pointed out that students are being exploited by subtitling companies and that the entire profession of subtitling may wither, if professionals can no longer make a decent living out of it.

Broadcast Text International has remained silent on the subject in the media. The company has promised to aspire to quality, but has not responded to the concerns voiced by the subtitlers or reacted to invitations to open negotiations from trade unions.

The situation has been widely reported in the Finnish media with stories appearing in most major newspapers, as well as in the national broadcasting company YLE's television news. Among others, Helsingin Sanomat wrote that the subtitlers' mass exodus may endanger the supply of subtitles on MTV Media's channels while the national tabloid Iltalehti interviewed an outsourced subtitler and a long term Broadcast Text freelancer. The official blog for a major news magazine, Suomen Kuvalehti, even highlighted subtitles' influence on the literacy and foreign language skills of the public. Additionally, the topic has been discussed online in various blogs and Facebook communities.

The outsourcing coincided with the Nordic launch of online video rental service Netflix, for which Broadcast Text provided a large amount of subtitles. The quality of these subtitles has received strong criticism, and Netflix has even been caught using illegal fan subtitles found online. Netflix quickly apologized for this mistake; however, in a conversation with a subtitling blogger, a Netflix representative admitted that quality does not concern Netflix and that the company is considering using crowdsourcing to produce subtitles in the future.

The situation is still uncertain at the moment. So far, Broadcast Text has been able to produce subtitles despite losing most of the outsourced subtitlers. However, as deadlines draw closer, there is real concern that Broadcast Text will not be able to handle the amount of work it has been left with.