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TV broadcasters 'comfortably exceed' Ofcom's subtitle and signing targets

Thursday, October 22nd 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Most TV channels have “comfortably exceeded” their targets for the provision of subtitles, signing and audio description, according to Ofcom.

The telecoms regulator today published its first bi-annual report on the provision of ‘access services’ by broadcasters.

The figures, which cover the first six months of 2015, show the target each broadcaster was set and the level actually achieved.

“With regards domestic broadcasters, many channels are continuing to comfortably exceed their requirements,” said Ofcom.

“In cases where broadcasters are not meeting their requirements, Ofcom will expect them to have met their obligations by the end of the year.”

The BBC has a subtitling target of 100% and fell just short of achieving this on three of its channels because of what Ofcom described as “occasional technical and/or operational problems”.

The corporation met all of its targets for signing and audio description.

Domestic channels with an audience share of between 0.05% and 1% are given subtitling and audio description targets but have the option to either broadcast a certain amount of sign-presented programming or participate in alternative arrangements approved by Ofcom.

CITV, Boomerang and Cartoon Network exceeded the target of 30 minutes of programming per month, while most channels opted to contribute to the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust, which commissions sign-presented programming and is broadcast on the Community Channel and Film 4.

Campaigners and charities previously welcomed Ofcom’s 2014 Television Access Services report – which found that all 72 domestic channels had met or exceeded their targets – but said more needs to be done.

'Enhance the quality'

Susan Daniels, CEO of the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), said: “Progress is still needed to ensure far better access for on-demand programmes and also to enhance the quality of subtitles.”

Current targets apply only to traditional broadcast TV but charities including NDCS and Action on Hearing Loss have called for the government to introduce similar targets for on-demand content.

Earlier this month, a report by Action on Hearing Loss found that deaf viewers would switch TV provider in order to access more on-demand content with subtitles.

The report found that 89% of people with hearing loss relied on subtitles to watch TV at least some of the time and 63% watch on-demand programming at least once a week.

Ofcom's next report on the provision of access services is expected to be published in March 2016.

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