Say hello to the world of Canto soap in English

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 October, 2010, 12:00am

Many an expatriate has long had to live with Canto-pop. Now they can add Canto soap operas to enrich their cultural life in the city.

Starting from this week, selected drama series aired on TVB's high-definition Jade channel will be made available with both Chinese and English subtitles for the first time.

Thanks to TVB's switch to digital broadcasting, not only have more TV channels become available, but viewers can also watch more programmes with suitable subtitles.

The first show being aired with English subtitles is the broadcaster's current hit series No Regrets, produced by veteran TV producer Lee Tim-sing, whose drama series have elevated numerous TVB actors from the small screen to superstardom. Among these stars are Chow Yun-fat, Andy Lau Tak-wah and Tony Leung Chiu-wai.

'We always have English subtitles done for the overseas releases of our TV dramas,' said a TVB spokesman. 'The English subtitles are already there, but we just never had the chance to show them in the past with the TV analogue system.'

Starring Sheren Tang Shui-man and Wayne Lai Yiu-cheung - winners of best actress and actor respectively at last year's TVB anniversary award presentation - No Regrets is a melodrama set against the background of 1930s Guangzhou, a period of political turmoil. Tang plays a gangster's daughter, a rival of the police inspector played by Lai, with whom she eventually falls in love. No Regrets had its first episode aired last Monday.

Crime thriller Gun Metal Grey, which will have its premiere on November 1, will be the next programme to be aired with English subtitles.

TVB said the initiative was launched as an 'additional service' to celebrate the broadcaster's 43rd anniversary. A TVB spokesman did not reveal how much more expensive it would be to add English subtitles, merely saying that the cost only lay in 'putting the subtitles onto the screen'.

The spokesman said, at this stage, it would only show dramas with English subtitles.

After the mid-year review of the two free-to-air television licensees, all drama programmes aired on Cantonese channels need to be subtitled, while programmes aired on English channels between 8pm and 11.30pm should have English subtitling.

According to licensing requirements, subtitles are required. Initially, only Chinese subtitles are needed for Chinese channels and English subtitles for English channels.

Subtitling was required for news, current affairs, weather and emergency announcements, while Chinese subtitles were required for programmes shown between 7pm and 11pm on Cantonese channels. English subtitles were required at least two hours a week for educational English programmes targeting teenagers and aired on English channels.

However, the law does not require English subtitles on Chinese programmes aired on Cantonese channels.

Baptist University's film academy head Cheuk Pak-tong said he didn't believe the additional English subtitles were likely to bring a new audience to the TVB dramas, as the core audience would still be Chinese-speakers. 'Since the subtitles are already made, perhaps they just do not want to waste them,' Cheuk said.

Televisioners Association vice-president Peter Lam Yuk-wah jokingly suggested that English subtitles might be beneficial to foreign domestic helpers working in Hong Kong. 'But I would say this is rather a value-added service. At least the audience has been given another option, thanks to technology,' said Lam.

TVB's rival ATV has not yet announced any plans to add English subtitles to its Chinese language programmes.