by Raquel Vasconcellos
In May of 2022, Bill 1376/22 was introduced by Congressman Pedro Paulo in Brazil, which is meant to support Brazilian Portuguese translators. Why does this concern audiovisual translators? Because the bill states that all Brazilian dubbing and subtitling projects broadcast in Brazil must be provided by companies and translators based in Brazil.
The reason for this bill seems to be that there is unfair competition since, according to the Congressman, these services are usually provided by foreign companies. He explains that dubbing and subtitling services carried out abroad are not subject to the rigorous regulatory and tax obligations imposed on the local industry. All of which, according to Mr. Paulo, exposes dubbing houses in Brazil to unfair competition, thus resulting in tighter operational budgets.
Besides that, Paulo alleges that these foreign companies hire translators and actors with no Brazilian Portuguese proficiency, and thus, their quality is lower than those produced domestically. This is far from the truth and beyond bizarre.
First, the statement that most dubbing projects have been done by foreign companies is not true. If the audience wants to confirm which company has dubbed a specific title, they can easily check the credits. Checking if the titles have been dubbed by Brazilian companies is a no-brainer, and it seems Paulo skipped this part while researching for his bill.
The intent of a good lip sync is for people to not notice that it was dubbed, so it should sound natural. It makes sense that features and series are dubbed in Brazil, as has happened for decades. Most major international studios and vendors only dub in specialized studios located in the target language country, which makes Mr. Paulo’s argument go down the drain. This happens precisely to avoid the quality issues that are common among low-priced services. The Brazilian dubbing audience is demanding; they don’t accept less than perfect accents or lip sync. Major studios are very aware of this. Even the localization agencies that provide multiple language translation services have partnerships with dubbing studios in Brazil, and this is so they can provide impeccable Brazilian Portuguese dubbing.
When it comes to subtitling, the argument is the same: that TV shows are translated by subtitlers with insufficient language proficiency based outside of Brazil. Again, this is not true. Those professionals who subtitle outside of Brazil are as suited for this position as those based in Brazil. Also, since they provide services to companies around the world, most of them work together. If this bill is approved, Brazilian translators living abroad won’t be able to work with foreign or Brazilian companies. This would take their livelihood from them. They would have to look for a new job. This goes against the Congressman’ proposal, which is to create Brazilian jobs. How could this be fair? A Brazilian worker is only worthwhile if based in Brazil?
Ask yourself: Do you know a Brazilian audiovisual translator who would rather work for Brazilian companies than foreign companies? I don’t think so. Why? Because it doesn’t pay off. Some Brazilian companies offer audiovisual translators around a third or less than foreign companies do, and Brazilian translators are heavily taxed by Brazilian law. Approval of the proposed law would lead to low-quality subtitles since translators would have to work three times as much to make a decent income.
The bill will now be analyzed by several commissions in the House of Representatives.
No translators union or association has been approached to discuss how this proposed law would affect this community around the globe. It’s essential that the whole translation community is aware of this outrageous bill. And if you want to support Brazilian audiovisual translators, vote here: https://forms.camara.leg.br/ex/enquetes/2324873
If the real goal is to support Brazilian Portuguese translators, other actions could be beneficial. The government could help new professionals open a small business as an “MEI,” an individual micro-entrepreneur. Brazilian studios could work with better rates, since some companies have not increased their rates in years. Some translators believe they pay more than their fair share in taxes, so that’s another issue to consider. Also, any decision made must go through the translators’ union and associations to clearly understand the needs of this tiny but strong community. Many concerns can be addressed to support individual translators and strengthen the profession.
If this bill is approved, many Brazilians around the globe will become unemployed, which should be enough reason to put this bill on ice. Brazilian linguists based in Brazil will probably change careers for better pay and not because they are stuck in a career that doesn’t suit them, but because they would have to.
It’s kind of strange that a congressman is allowed to dictate whom you should work for and how much you should make. Taking a walk in an audiovisual translator’s shoes would make them realize that they’re extinguishing a profession just as it’s gaining visibility.