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CEO DATELINE – Group calls for fair pay for translators in entertainment industry

By Kathryn Walson

Nov. 23, 2021

The American Translators Association has posted an open letter in response to recent reports about a supposed shortage of professional translators and subtitlers.

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“There is no shortage, but instead a disconnect between the value of this skilled work and the pay offered, leading to a perceived lack of qualified professionals available for these jobs and subpar subtitles in the world’s most popular titles in film and TV,” ATA President Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo wrote in the Nov. 18 letter.

Current practices within the entertainment industry “devalue subtitlers’ work, discourage truly qualified professionals from accepting these jobs and impede international viewers’ enjoyment of these titles,” she continued.

Sánchez Zampaulo urged film and television production studios and the language service providers they contract with to “hire professional subtitlers at professional rates—rather than unskilled multilingual labor at pay that can work out to well below minimum wage.”

Professional subtitlers should be able to share in the revenue generated by TV shows and films, Sánchez Zampaulo said. Translated or accessible versions bring in around 50% of total revenue; yet less than 0.1% of the average budget is spent on translation and accessibility, according to findings she cited.

“In the global age of entertainment, translators should be recognized as a critical part of the production team,” she said.

The Alexandria, Va.-based ATA has nearly 10,000 members in more than 100 countries, according to the group. Members include translators, interpreters, teachers, project managers, web and software developers, language company owners, hospitals, universities and government agencies.