Disappointment at Government’s failure to act on video-on-demand subtitling

Sense logoNational deafblind charity, Sense, has previously called on the Government to introduce legislation that would end “digital exclusion” faced by people with sight and hearing loss.

Sense, the national deafblind charity, has expressed disappointment at the Government’s refusal to bring in legislation that would see the introduction of subtitles, signed content and audio description on video-on-demand content.  In partnership with Action on Hearing Loss and RNIB, Sense has been calling on the government to end ‘digital exclusion’ faced by people with sight and hearing loss due to the lack of access services in programming.

Sense has argued that the Government should introduce measures to improve the accessibility of subtitles in video-on-demand content, so that people with a hearing and sight loss can ‘catch-up’ on TV and films how and when they want.

The Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, carried out a review in Autumn 2015, and as a result notified Sense that the Government feel sufficient progress is being made by broadcasters, content providers and platform operators towards increasing the provision of subtitles and other services on their video-on-demand services, and that the introduction of legislation “could have a detrimental impact on what the sector has shown it is able to achieve on a voluntary basis.”

Joff McGill, Head of Information, Advice, and Research at Sense said:

“The overall picture of current provision is disappointing. While accessible content can be found on an increasing range of devices, there are still large gaps on the major TV platforms and there have not been great advances for subtitle provision in 2015 – 76% of the UK’s on demand services are still inaccessible. As a result, many of the people that we represent cannot access TV content in the way others take for granted. Why should Video on Demand be any less accessible than the TV we watch as it is broadcast?”

“Yes, it is a complex picture, with new technologies emerging, a lack of standardisation, and a number of organisations involved in ensuring subtitles and other access services are delivered. But a common framework, set out by Government, would help.”

Sense welcomes improvements that have been promised by broadcasters and platform operators, and remains committed to working with the industry. Mr Vaizey told the charity that he will be contacting broadcasters, content providers and platform operators in Spring 2017 to request an update on what further progress has been made.

Joff McGill continued: “We look forward to responding to the Government’s call for industry to work closely with Ofcom and organisations such as Sense. In the absence of legislation and a common framework, the Minister’s leadership will be vital to ensure deafblind people are not excluded.”

“We will be responding to the industry, the regulator and the Government shortly, and will be working closely with our supporters to continue campaigning to ensure that deafblind people have equal access to TV.”

About Sense

Sense is a national charity that has been supporting and campaigning for children and adults who are deafblind for the last 60 years. There are currently around 250,000 deafblind people in the UK.

Sense provides specialist information, advice and services to deafblind people, their families, carers and the professionals who work with them. We run services across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and employ 2,000 people most of whom work in services directly with deafblind people. Our patron is HRH The Princess Royal. Further information can be found on Sense’s website – www.sense.org.uk

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