The Question: Should Deaf people get a 95% reduction in their licence fee?

Posted on July 11, 2013

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I managed to wangle some money off my dad’s mobile phone bill because he wouldn’t be using the talk minutes that came with his contract. I saved him £120. A good result.

But what other bills are deaf people expected to pay for things that they don’t use? Where else can I save a bit of money for the big guy, I thought to myself.

It didn’t take long for me to come up with an idea… its the TV licence. But what are the reasons for picking on the TV licence as something that maybe deaf people shouldn’t have to stump up for?

The first argument I thought of was that TV programmes are not all subtitled and only a tiny proportion have signing.

BSL users have a pretty strong case for a sizable discount, however, those who use subtitles probably don’t. I did a bit of digging and found that the BBC subtitle 99.9% of programming across everything except the BBC Parliament channel. So, for those who use subtitles, asking for a discount based on the 0.01% of inaccessible programming isn’t going to work and if it did, the discount might not cover the cost of the stamp. Maybe a 10p rebate per mistake would do?

It’s a different matter for those who only access TV when its signed. Only 5% of TV is signed across the Beeb which, it could be argued, means the rest isn’t accessible. I think it would be hard to prove that the rest of TV wasn’t being accessed so its probably not a fruitful line of endeavour.


But maybe it’s not the TV licence we should be thinking about. What about the cost of subscription channels available on platforms such as Sky or Virgin. The accessibility rates for those channels are lower and some Sky services are not accessibe at all for deaf people. Sky do not subtitle their Go or On Demand services and these Ofcom results show that large tracts of their programming does not have subtitling when broadcast.

My dad hasn’t got Sky, so I won’t be troubling their customer service team about this issue, but from looking at the figures, I reckon 30% off the price of Sky TV would just about compensate for the un-subtitled programming.

Back to the TV Licence now. It doesn’t just pay for BBC TV stations, the fee also covers the cost of the BBC websites and radio stations too.

In fact, there are 59 BBC radio stations that deaf people won’t be listening to (or very few, at least) and it costs each deaf licence fee payer about £25 each per year to keep them on air.

Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think asking deaf people to pay for radio stations is fair. In fact, it’s bonkers. Blind people are entitled to 50% off their fee which means there is a precedent for discounting the licence fee based on accessibility. The amounts we’re talking about are not going to make anyone rich but in these straightened times, it all adds up and could keep the heating on at Christmas.

So the questions for you, the reader, are these. Should BSL users get a massive discount on the licence fee? Should all deaf people get a further discount on the licence fee because they can’t listen to the radio? And should all TV providers charge deaf people less to reflect the proportion of programming that isn’t accessible?

Your views in the comments please.

By Andy Palmer, The Limping Chicken’s Editor-at-Large. 

Andy volunteers for the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society on their website, deaf football coaching and other events as well as working for a hearing loss charity. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP (all views expressed are his own).

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