With your help, we’ve influenced broadcasters
When we launched Subtitle it! in June 2015, Sky (the UK’s biggest paid-for TV provider), subtitled just 4% of its on-demand content. We worked with deaf teenager Jamie Danjoux to promote his Change.org petition calling on Sky TV to add subtitles to its on-demand services – and in summer of that year, Sky made a public commitment to take action. In 2016 we recruited subtitle users to Sky’s subtitle trials and by September 2016, Sky started to roll out subtitles.
We’ve worked with other providers to encourage them to drive up subtitle levels, resulting in providers such as BT committing to the investment of technology to allow subtitles to be shown on its on-demand programmes.
You can view up-to-date information about the level of subtitles across all on-demand and catch-up TV platforms and broadcasters using Ofcom’s interactive data tool here.
Together, we've changed the law!
When Subtitle it! launched, legislation regarding subtitling provision was more than 10 years out of date. This meant that while there were quotas for providing subtitles on 'traditional' TV, no such legislation existed for video-on-demand. Our campaign was determined to change this.
With your support, we pursued a number of important opportunities to influence the government to bring about change throughout 2015 and 2016, including a government review about on-demand subtitling, a Private Members’ Bill tabled by Lilian Greenwood MP and the passage of the Digital Economy Bill. Over 6,000 of you influenced parliament by writing to two consecutive Digital Ministers and your own MP, which led to 70 MPs from across the political spectrum signing up to publically back Subtitle it.
Well, we did it! In early 2017, 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.
What’s been happening?
Although the legislation has passed, you won’t see the changes straight away – but rest assured we’ve been keeping a very close eye on progress. Here’s an outline of what’s been happening:
Ofcom has carried out a consultation
The government instructed Ofcom to carry out a consultation on the development of new regulations to establish quotas for the amount of on-demand content that must carry subtitles.
Thank you to the thousands of you who contributed to our consultation response to Ofcom, in which we called on TV providers to move towards fully accessible content for those who are deaf or have hearing loss. Read our response and press release.
Ofcom has reported back
Ofcom reported back to government and made recommendations on the regulations, proposing that 40% of content should be subtitled within two years of the legislation coming into force, increasing to 80% after four years. Read our response here.
What are the next steps?
Ofcom will hold a second consultation
Ofcom will be consulting for a second time, to help the Government establish specific parameters for the legislation. This consultation will last for between twelve and sixteen weeks once it begins. This does mean that the new law is unlikely to come into force until 2021.
Parliament will enshrine new targets in law
The government will consider Ofcom’s recommendations, carry out an impact assessment and then draft the regulation necessary for targets to be enshrined in law. Parliament will need to pass these regulations, with MPs and Peers being asked to signal their consent to the government’s proposals. We will continue to work with government and Ofcom, encouraging them to enforce the proposed regulations.
The new law will take effect
Once the secondary legislation has been passed, Ofcom will consult on a code outlining how it will regulate the targets (including exemptions to the legislation). Once this code is finalised, the regulations will come into force. If Ofcom’s recommendations are accepted in full by the government, then on-demand providers affected will have four years to achieve their full quotas, and two years to achieve interim targets from the moment the code is published.
Thank you to everyone who’s taken action for Subtitle it! so far. We may be asking for your help again soon to ensure that Ofcom’s recommendations result in solid improvements for subtitle users.