Front Page: Traficom
Front Page: Traficom

People of all ages use subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH). Turning on SDH subtitles when consuming visual content has become common especially among younger people. Women under 25 use SDH subtitles the most. The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom surveyed the use of SDH subtitles in autumn 2022 as part of the annual consumer survey on communications services. Widely available SDH subtitles make audio-visual services more accessible to special groups in particular, but they are useful to all consumer groups. Traficom has obliged Sanoma Media Oy to remedy the shortcomings of its Ruutu service.

In 2022, Traficom surveyed the use and purposes of SDH subtitles among different age groups. It was discovered that all age groups find subtitling an important service. “High-quality subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing is an essential part of accessible digital services,” stresses Project Manager Tiina Aaltonen.

Approximately a quarter of the respondents said that they use SDH subtitles at least sometimes when watching TV shows or videos. In the survey, SDH subtitles were defined as follows: “Subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing means intralingual subtitling. In other words, Finnish subtitles on Finnish programmes and Swedish subtitles on Swedish programmes – not translated subtitles.”

Young people use SDH subtitles the most

It is noteworthy that, according to the survey, the use of SDH subtitles is more common among younger people. SDH subtitles are used the most by people under 25, but people aged 25–34 are also more likely than average to use the service. 

Closer analysis revealed that the use of SDH subtitles is most common among women under 25, 40% of whom said that they use SDH subtitles at least sometimes. The use of SDH subtitles was also above average levels among men under 25 (37%) and men aged 25–34 (35%).

The number of consumers using SDH subtitles when watching TV shows and videos.
Figure 1: The number of consumers using SDH subtitles when watching TV shows and videos.

Inarticulate speech and audio quality main reasons for using SDH subtitles

The most common reason for using SDH subtitles was inarticulate speech or difficulties to hear the audio. 36% of respondents using SDH subtitles chose this as the reason for using subtitles. There were no statistically significant differences in terms of age or gender.

Nearly as many (35%) said that they use SDH subtitles when they have to watch the content at a low volume to not disturb others in public transport or their family members at home or for a similar reason. This reason was particularly common in the age group of 35–44 and especially among women. 53% of all respondents in this age group and 64% of women of this age chose this as the reason for using SDH subtitles.

Approximately one in four users of SDH subtitling said they use the service for language learning. This was most common among respondents under 25 (40%) and especially among women of this age (59%).

A hearing impairment or age-related hearing loss were mentioned less often than the aforementioned reasons; however, both reasons were highlighted in the eldest age group.

The most common reasons for using SDH subtitles as a graph.
Figure 2. The most common reasons for using SDH subtitles.

11% of respondents gave another reason for using SDH subtitles. Out of this group, 40% said that following or understanding the content is easier with subtitles. Half of these respondents were aged under 35.

Nearly as many respondents stated that they are simply accustomed to using SDH subtitles or that the subtitles had been left on or turned on automatically. This was clearly more common among respondents aged 35 or older.

Sanoma reprimanded for missing SDH subtitles on Ruutu

According to law, SDH subtitling must be made available for programmes aired on the television channels of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) and on the channels MTV3 and Nelonen. As of the start of 2021, programmes with SDH subtitles must also be made available on these channels’ on-demand programme services YLE Areena, Katsomo and Ruutu. On these services, programmes with SDH subtitles must make up 30% of all available programmes.

In spring 2022, Traficom collected data of audio-subtitling and subtitling services produced in 2021 from providers of television broadcasters obliged to provide audio-subtitling and subtitling services in accordance with the relevant legislation. Based on the data provided by Sanoma Media Finland Oy, no SDH subtitles were available for any programme on the company’s on-demand programme service Ruutu in 2021. By autumn 2022, SDH subtitles had been gradually added to some programmes.

Traficom found that Sanoma Media Finland Oy had breached the obligation to provide subtitles stipulated in the Act on Electronic Communications Services and issued a decision reprimanding the company on 21 December 2022. Traficom required Sanoma Media Finland Oy to add subtitling services to Nelonen programmes on Ruutu by the end of January 2023. The company has been requested to report to Traficom about the SDH subtitles provided in February 2023 by 9 March 2023 and give a statement on how and on which platforms the subtitling service has been made available to the public using the on-demand programme service and what other measures the company has taken following the decision issued by Traficom.

The survey was conducted as national telephone interviews among the population aged 15 and above. In total, 2,000 interviews were conducted with set gender, age and residential area quotas that correspond with the population structure.

Consumer survey – communications services 2022 (External link) (in Finnish)

Beslut (External link) (in Finnish)


Tiina Aaltonen, Project Manager, tel. 029 539 0526,

Eliisa Reenpää, Legal Counsel, tel. 029 539 0418,