By Gabija Jonsson, Head of Communications, Red Bee Media 

Imagine yourself watching the evening news. You see a sign language interpreter in the corner of the screen and don’t give it much thought. However, did you know that what you are usually seeing is a hearing sign language interpreter?

Traditionally live sign language translation is provided by hearing interpreters. As a national provider of live British Sign Language (BSL) services for news programs, Red Bee Media aims to change that. We have developed a unique solution combining technical innovation and expert translators to enable Deaf interpreters to deliver a sign language service for live news and event broadcasts. We are creating opportunities for Deaf interpreters to authentically represent their language. Therefore, we did not hesitate when we had the opportunity to join the DeafMedia (Media, Reliable Information and Deaf people in Europe 2020) project, co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union

The project’s main objectives are to promote access to information in signed languages and to support and train Deaf translators as professional media interpreters, particularly in signing live news content. Our role in the project was to prepare the selected participants for live interpreting and share technical and operational knowledge. Working with the national Deaf Associations in Spain, Lithuania, and Croatia, twelve participants were selected to take part in the training. 

A Multinational Project


“Choosing 12 participants from all the candidates was not easy. First, we looked for passionate and eager professionals. They all submitted screen tests as part of the selection criteria. Before this project, we had no knowledge of the deaf landscape in other countries, and here we had participants with five different sign languages getting to know each other and practising live interpreting during the pandemic behind the screens in their living rooms. We started the training in September 2021, so it was fantastic to finally meet face-to-face this summer and provide the training in the Broadcast Centre in London,” reflects Lesley McGilp, Signing General Manager​ at Red Bee Media.


Isabel Plaza, Project Manager at Red Bee Media, said: “The idea that Deaf people can work as professional sign language interpreters is new not only for many hearing people, but even for many deaf people themselves. When the candidates arrived in London for the training, they shook their heads, saying this would be an impossible task. However, when they left after the weekend, not only did they have all the expertise in the technical aspects of live interpreting, but, most importantly, they had the self-esteem boost and great support network they need, proving that it is indeed possible.”


Last week, on October 11th, we had a round-up meeting at our Broadcast Centre sharing key success stories from the DeafMedia Project and giving a tour of our signing studios to demonstrate how deaf translators and interpreters deliver sign language on live and pre-recorded programming for broadcasters in the UK and Ireland. Representatives from BT Sport, Channel 4, BBC, and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People to name a few, were all fascinated with Red Bee’s experts’ dedication when driving the project and all agreed that the need for deaf interpretation is enormous.


"Red Bee Media’s presentation on the DeafMedia project was informative and demonstrated how they have shared their technical and operational experience with their pan-European project partners. Channel 4 is proud to have contributed to this research, and enabling Deaf interpreters to contribute to this practice of live interpretation is such an important step. We look forward to exploring future opportunities to make use of this exciting new technology.”

Jonathan Penny, Access Services Manager, Channel 4


“I thoroughly enjoyed the DeafMedia event and learning all about the Erasmus project. I thought it was an excellent initiative and feel that this course should be made widely available, as it is a much-needed resource. I loved the ‘behind the scenes’ tour, it was great to see how the BSL translations of various TV programmes work!”

Dr. Kate Rowley, Deaf Researcher, University College London


“RNID were pleased to receive the invitation to learn more about DeafMedia Project. It was fantastic to see how Red Bee Media have made it possible for deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users to interpret live and pre-recorded TV. This is an exciting move which we hope will ensure interpretation is meeting the needs of the Deaf community and open more opportunities for deaf BSL users to get involved in television. The event was also a great opportunity to discuss what BSL users want from TV shows and how broadcasters can break down barriers and make more content available in BSL.”

Natasha Robinson, Inclusion Policy Advisor, RNID

"Our Deaf-led, live signing team continues to lead the way with native BSL users providing live translation for news and breaking news events. Live signed programming enables sign language users to feel connected to the events taking place in the world. Our Deaf BSL signers ensure that BSL users get fluent translation delivered by native users and can be part of world events and the conversations about them as they happen. We are delighted to be promoting and participating in the Erasmus+ DeafMedia programme to ensure the skills are more widely available to enable more people to connect.”

Tom Wootton, Head of Product - Broadcast and Access , Red Bee Media

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