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Deaf viewers would switch provider to get subtitles on on-demand TV

Wednesday, October 14th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

More than two thirds of people with hearing loss would switch TV provider if more on-demand content with subtitles was available elsewhere, according to a new report.

Action on Hearing Loss asked 3,751 people with hearing loss about how they watch on-demand content and the barriers they face accessing it.

The charity found that two thirds of those who pay for subscriptions would switch TV providers to access more subtitled on-demand content.

89% of those who responded said they rely on subtitles to watch TV at least some of the time. 87% have started to watch a programme on demand then found it had no subtitles.

It found that 63% of respondents watch on-demand content at least once a week, but 83% have missed out on an on-demand programme, film or entire series because of a lack of subtitles.

The report, ‘Progress on pause: spelling out the case for subtitles on on-demand services’, follows the Subtitle It! campaign run by Action on Hearing Loss through the summer.

The campaign called on the government to introduce subtitling and audio description targets for on-demand content.

It was backed by Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood, who said there is a “compelling case” for updating the law and submitted a Private Members Bill to the House of Commons in June.

Nine out of 10 people surveyed by Action on Hearing Loss said that they think the government should regulate to ensure subtitles are available for on-demand services.

The charity's CEO Paul Breckell said: “This report has unearthed some astonishing statistics about on-demand subtitling and highlighted huge barriers faced by people living with hearing loss when trying to access on-demand content.

'Digital exclusion'

“Whilst traditional television services are obliged by law to include subtitling, the way we watch TV has changed dramatically, and the law needs to be updated to include on-demand services.

Research by the BBC has shown that subtitles are in demand – more than 500,000 programmes are viewed on iPlayer every day with subtitles switched on.

Earlier this year, deaf and blind charities including Action on Hearing Loss urged other broadcasters to follow the BBC's lead in producing accessible content.

Amazon already has, with subtitles on nearly 70% of its streamed content and a self-imposed target of having 100% of its content subtitled in the near future.

But recent figures from the on-demand services regulator ATVOD revealed that 80% of UK on-demand services had no subtitles.

That figure rises to 85% for website apps and 93% for mobile or tablet apps.

“There’s a clear, demonstrable business case here for service providers to up their game and make their content fully accessible to everyone," added Mr Breckell.

“There are 10m people in the UK living with hearing loss and it is about time we ended their digital exclusion.”

Action on Hearing Loss is asking supporters to email their local MP ahead of the government's review of the legislation around on-demand subtitles next year.

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