Deaf News: Charity urges Parliament to pass legislation for on-demand subtitles before dissolution ahead of election

Posted on April 26, 2017

Deaf charity Action on Hearing Loss is urging Parliament to pass important legislation for subtitles for on-demand television services before it enters dissolution on 3rd May 2017.

The charity is calling on parliamentarians to allow the Digital Economy Bill to attain Royal Assent before parliament enters dissolution ahead of the general election.

The Bill includes the Subtitle it! clause, which gives new powers to the TV regulator, Ofcom, to compel video-on-demand broadcasters to provide subtitles.  The clause received cross party support during the process of the Digital Economy Bill and there has been no vocal opposition in either House to the principle of the amendment.

Subtitles are essential to ensuring that the UK’s 11 million people with hearing loss can access television – they enable people who are deaf or hard of hearing to stay abreast of the latest news, keep up with their favourite shows and share the twists and turns of a gripping drama with friends and family in a way that many take for granted.

Paul Breckell, Action on Hearing Loss Chief Executive said: “We were delighted when Parliament passed the Subtitle it! amendment which brought us a huge step closer to equal access to TV to all those who rely on subtitles. It is now absolutely vital that the legislative process for the Digital Economy Bill is concluded, to ensure this fantastic development is not snatched away from the 7.5 million people in the UK who rely on subtitles.  A recent report by Ofcom shows that 68% of providers are not offering any access services on video-on-demand platforms at all , which is nowhere near acceptable, and demonstrates why the Subtitle it! clause is so vital.”

The charity’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. There has previously been no legal requirement to provide subtitles on catch up or video-on-demand services, leaving 68% 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.

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