Ofcom today updated the amount of sign language on screen smaller TV channels broadcasting in the UK have to show, in a move which should provide substantial benefits to viewers who use BSL.
Since 2007, smaller channels with an audience TV viewing share between 0.05% and 1% (‘relevant channels’) have been required to show 30 minutes of programmes each month presented in British Sign Language (BSL).
As an alternative, channels can choose to contribute a minimum of £20,000 a year to other arrangements that help make sign-presented TV programmes available.
Most choose to support the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSLBT), which funds sign-presented content as part of the BSL Zone, shown on the Community Channel and Film 4.
Last year, Ofcom ran a consultation on their proposed changes, creating a BSL summary, inviting responses from Deaf people, and meeting Deaf groups in two BSL-interpreted meetings at Ofcom.
Today, they have decided that from January 2016, broadcasters’ obligations will rise incrementally, from 30 minutes each month to 75 minutes per month.
Alternatively, channels can continue to support alternative arrangements, such as BSLBT. As with the obligation to provide sign-presented programmes, the amount of the minimum contribution to BSLBT will rise in real terms, and will also rise with inflation.
The regulator has also decided that expenditure on access service requirements will remain subject to a cap of 1% of turnover, to ensure that broadcasters are not subject to disproportionate costs when meeting their access service requirements.
Channels with an audience share of 1% or more and the public service channels will continue to be required to provide signing on a proportion of their programmes, rising over ten years from 1% to 5%.
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