Students launch campaign to end dubbing of foreign TV programmes
Switch on your TV here in the Czech Republic and you’ll see numerous familiar shows – Dr House, Bones, Downton Abbey – but they’re invariably dubbed into Czech; rarely are they shown in the original with subtitles. A group of secondary school students wants to change that, and have launched a new campaign to petition public and private broadcasters to stop dubbing their output.
Switch channels and you’ll find endless more examples of popular American, British, German and other films and TV shows – from old classics like Columbo to new shows like CSI – that are almost without exception dubbed into Czech. But there are many people – mostly younger viewers – who find the practice hugely frustrating, and not to mention detrimental to the nation’s language proficiency. Jan Papajanovský is an 18-year-old secondary school student from Děčín in North Bohemia.
“I think dubbing is a relic of Communism. I think that in countries where they are using subtitling more than dubbing, they’ve got better English. Because studies and opinions of experts show us that dubbing is moving our country back in language teaching. In countries like Finland and Sweden they speak English very well, and I think it’s partly because of their subtitling instead of dubbing.”
They want to put pressure on Czech Television to either replace dubbing with subtitles or offer dual audio channels so viewers can choose to watch either a dubbed version or the original by pressing a button on their remote control. This option is rarely used by Czech Television because it’s more expensive. But if enough licence-fee payers say they want it, says Jan, they’ll have little choice.
“When you go to a Czech cinema, there isn’t dubbing at all I think now. Only movies for children are dubbed now. So I think people who want a better cinematic experience are now looking for movies without dubbing. It’s true that many people, especially older ones, they think that dubbing is part of our culture because they think our dubbing is very good. But it’s not true.”
There’s also been a heavy public backlash of course, with many arguing that dubbing is deeply ingrained in the Czech popular culture and subtitles don’t suit older people or the language challenged. It gives an indication of the depth of feeling over what is a very divisive issue.