A spokesperson for the BBC has confirmed that all episodes of Eastenders will be transmitted with Arabic subtitles from October 1st 2016 – the corporation hopes that this will allow Syrian refugees and other Arabic-speaking migrants to settle in and get used to the British way of life. According to a press release, the subtitles will be included in all BBC One transmissions ‘on screen’ so that they cannot be switched off.
Their spokesperson said: ‘We are delighted to be helping these new arrivals in this manner, and including Arabic subtitles will really help them to get used to the British way of life – it will also assist with English language studies.’
‘We are including them in the base transmission as they may not know how to work the Freeview or Sky TV menu system, but our research has shown that all non-Arabic speakers will naturally begin to ignore the Arabic subtitles after 2-3 weeks of viewing. If this trial is successful, we will definitely consider adding permanent Arabic subtitles to other popular BBC shows by the end of 2016.’
Clive Robinson from UK Refugee Concern said: ‘This is an amazing act of compassion from the BBC, and it will be a massive comfort for Syrian refugees and migrants of other nationalities who arrive in the country. Our government colleagues in Essex are already taking part in a pilot scheme to provide refugees with Sky TV to help them in their transition to British life, and this BBC initiative complements it perfectly.’
Mr Robinson added: ‘A recent study showed that migrants who develop an affinity with a soap opera are 43% more likely to stay in their new country of arrival, and so as an organisation we feel that this is an excellent use of licence fee funds. If it helps some English speakers to improve their knowledge of Arabic as well, this can only be a good thing.’