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      Action on Hearing Loss statement in response to Ofcom consultation: How should on-demand programme services be made accessible?

      Background

      Action on Hearing Loss launched its Subtitle It! campaign to change legislation regarding subtitling provision for video-on-demand services, so that there are quotas for providing subtitles, as they exist on ‘traditional’ TV.

      In early 2017, through Action on Hearing Loss campaigning and lobbying, the Digital Economy Bill was successfully amended to promise new powers to the regulator of TV, Ofcom, to set on-demand subtitle quotas for broadcasters. In April 2017 this bill became The Digital Economy Act.

      In December 2017, the government instructed Ofcom to carry out a consultation on the development of a new code that will lay out the quotas for the amount of on-demand content that must carry subtitles. The consultation has now closed with Ofcom to report back to the government and make recommendations on the details of the code, before the government will draft the regulation necessary for the code to take effect. Parliament will then need to pass these regulations, with MPs and Peers being asked to signal their consent to the government’s proposals, before a new law will take effect.

      Action on Hearing Loss statement

      Action on Hearing Loss campaigned for the Subtitle It! amendment and welcomed the opportunity to input into the code which will stipulate the volume of subtitles on-demand outlets have to provide.

      Over 1,000 people participated in an Action on Hearing Loss survey to help the charity inform its consultation response, providing emotive statements about the impact of poor subtitle provision on digital exclusion of people with a hearing loss.

      In accepting the new clause to the Digital Economy Act, there was a cross-party consensus in both Houses of Parliament that the current provision of subtitles for on-demand services to be inadequate, with this needing to be the primary guiding principle behind the code.

      Action on Hearing Loss is calling for a robust, yet proportionate code with standards which set out a clear map for full accessibility and believe the initial code should require providers to include subtitles on 80% of new content in 5 years and 95% in 10 years, alongside 50% of their back catalogue in 5 years and 95 in 10 years – across all platforms and devices.

      Action on Hearing Loss has worked with its members and supporters to campaign tirelessly to provide access to TV services, and is now imploring Ofcom and the Government to be courageous and unstinting in their resolve to refuse to accept any attempt by the industry to hide behind what they describe as spurious ‘technical difficulties’ to dilute the power of the code.

      Action on Hearing Loss will now look forward to reading Ofcom’s response to the consultation and urge the Government to move swiftly to bring forward the regulations necessary to implement the code and help reduce digital exclusion and allow people with a hearing loss to enjoy catch-up TV like their hearing peers.

      Read our full response to the Ofcom consultation