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Same Language Subtitling (SLS) project

Topics Covered: Issues related to education.

Same Language Subtitling (SLS) project


The Same Language Subtitling (SLS) project at IIM-Ahmedabad has researched and implemented SLS pilots on TV in eight major Indian languages.

The project has completed a 23 years journey. And yet, the most critical policy step remains unaccomplished — quality implementation of the policy on TV channels.

About SLS project:

In 1996 the Same Language Subtitling (SLS) programme was launched as a research project.

Its aim was to examine whether the subtitling of mainstream TV content could help people, especially those who were hard to reach through traditional literacy programmes, to improve their reading and writing skills.

In 1999, SLS was officially put into practice as a literacy intervention programme by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) and not-for-profit organization PlanetRead.

  • SLS has the proven power to transform much of TV and OTT content consumption into routine reading practice that is inescapable, subconscious, sustainable, scalable, and extremely cost-effective.
  • The ‘Accessibility Standards’ of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), framed in September 2019 under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, require 50% of all entertainment content on TV to carry captions in the same language, or SLS, by 2025.

The main approach of SLS is quite simple: to subtitle audiovisual content in the language of the audio track so the on-screen text and audio match perfectly. While watching TV, viewers can match the words on screen to the sounds they are hearing simultaneously.

Significance and potential of the project:

India is globally the first country where the mainstreaming of SLS on TV and streaming content is being advanced for mass reading literacy.

  • When SLS is implemented on TV in all Indian languages, as broadcast policy now stipulates, it will automatically give daily reading practice to an estimated 600 million weak readers who currently cannot read and understand simple text, like a newspaper.
  • Within three to five years of regular exposure to SLS on entertainment content already watched, many of them will become functional and some even fluent readers.


Close to a billion viewers in India watch on average 3 hours and 46 minutes of TV every day (FICCI-EY, 2019). No other activity, nationally, comes close to commanding four billion person-hours every day.

COVID 19 pandemic situation:

COVID-19 has further highlighted the potential of the SLS solution for upping the nation’s mass reading skills. Globally, 1.4 billion children, and in India 300 million, have been locked out of schools. Intermittent school openings and closures are to be expected going forward.

Way ahead:

A national implementation of SLS on existing general entertainment content (GEC) on TV and streaming platforms, also known as Over-The-Top (OTT), would revolutionise reading literacy in India.

This is in addition to having massive national impact in two other domains, that of media access among Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) people and of language learning.


Prelims Link:

  1. Examples for OTT platforms.
  2. SLS project was launched by?
  3. Focus of the program.
  4. Overview of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Mains Link:

Write a note on SLS project.

Sources: the Hindu.