Same Language Subtitling of Bollywood Film Songs on TV: Effects on Literacy

Brij Kothari, Tathagata Bandyopadhyay


In addition to 273 million illiterates (2001 Census), India has an estimated 389 million officially “literate” people who cannot read a simple text. Same Language Subtitling (SLS), the concept of subtitling audiovisual content in the same language as the audio, has been promoted as a low-cost solution to addressing functional illiteracy using existing film songs on television that 740 million viewers already watch regularly. SLS was implemented for five years on Rangoli, a nationally telecast, popular weekly TV program of Bollywood film songs in Hindi. Data collection for the baseline (2002) and endline (2007) was conducted by Nielsen’s ORG-CSR on a number of literacy skill indicators in reading, writing, and self-perception. The agency drew a random sample from five Hindi states (n = 7,409). Self-reported regular Rangoli viewers (treatment or SLS group) were compared to those who saw it rarely or never (control or no-SLS group). For children in school (6–14) and youth/adults (15+), the SLS group showed substantially greater mean improvement on all the indicators of literacy skill than the no-SLS group. Regression analyses confirmed the significant effect of SLS on literacy.

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