Deaf News: Government makes on-demand subtitles a legal requirement

Posted on February 9, 2017


Campaigners are celebrating after the Government decided to make video-on-demand subtitling a legal requirement.

Last night, the House of Lords approved a Government proposal to amend the Digital Economy Bill to give new powers to the TV regulator, Ofcom, to compel video-on-demand broadcasters to provide subtitles.

There has previously been no legal requirement to provide subtitles on catch up or video-on-demand services, leaving 76% of on-demand programming inaccessible to the UK’s 7.5 million subtitle users, even if the programmes were subtitled when they were originally broadcast.

Subtitles enable people who are deaf or hard of hearing to read what is said on screen, as well as giving details of sound effects that they’d otherwise miss.

Action on Hearing Loss’s Subtitle It! campaign, launched in June 2015, has been calling on the Government to introduce measures to improve the accessibility of subtitles on video-on-demand content so that people with a hearing loss can ‘catch-up’ on TV and films how and when they want.

Paul Breckell, Action on Hearing Loss Chief Executive said: ‘We are delighted that the House of Lords passed the Subtitle It! amendment to the Digital Economy Bill yesterday and welcome the government’s commitment to act on this. We now look forward to seeing access to subtitles across on-demand programmes enshrined in law.

‘How, where and when we can watch TV has moved on at an incredible pace, but people with hearing loss have been left behind. We would like to thank our supporters and campaigners, as well as the parliamentarians who have engaged with us during this campaign, and we look forward to continuing to work directly with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the regulator for TV, Ofcom, and the broadcasting industry to ensure subtitles are available so that people with a hearing loss can enjoy catching up on their favourite TV shows just like their hearing peers.’

Michelle Hedley, Action on Hearing Loss supporter said:

‘Quite simply, the news of subtitling provision being included in the Digital Economy Bill means that I will have the freedom to choose what I view and when, and that I will no longer be excluded from watching with my family or friends. In a heavily increasing digital world, subtitles are essential to social inclusion.’

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Posted in: deaf news