Tonight 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.
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 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 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 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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Notes to editor:
- To view the amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, scroll to page 51 https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2016-2017/0080/17080-II.pdf
- Action on Hearing Loss helps people to confront deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. Action on Hearing Loss enables them to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way. Action on Hearing Loss gives people support and care, develop technology and treatments, and campaign for equality.
- The Action on Hearing Loss report, Progress on Pause, is available via the following link Progress on pause report
- According to qualitative research by Ofcom, 67% of people with hearing loss agreed that TV is important to them - rising to 74% of people who are severely or profoundly deaf. According to Ofcom’s research, about 7.5 million people have used subtitles to watch television, although six million of them do not have hearing loss. People with hearing loss watch TV for an average of 4.3 hours a day, compared with average viewing across the UK of 3.46 hours a day.
- Ofcom regulates editorial content (programming) on UK 'video on demand' services. Previously their co-regulator, the Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD), led on this. Video on demand services include TV catch up and online film services. The platform these on demand services are delivered on does not matter, so services on connected TVs, apps on mobile phones and programmes you view through set top boxes may be regulated.
- On-demand is video content such as a TV programme, series or film that you can access at any time of your choosing. It’s also referred to as video on demand or VOD. On-demand includes catch up TV, where a TV show is available for a period of days after the original broadcast (for example, on ITV Player or the BBC iPlayer). You can watch on-demand content through a variety of services, such as through a set top box (for example, Sky, Virgin, Apple TV), online (for example, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon), through your mobile phone or games console. On-demand does not include programmes recorded from live TV and watched at a later date, or those on +1 channels.