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Work starts to implement new on demand TV subtitling requirements

Tuesday, July 18th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Work is finally set to begin on requiring on-demand TV services to provide subtitles and audio description on their programmes.

The new measure is one of a number being implemented as part of the Universal Service Obligation (USO)Digital Economy Act 2017.

The Act was given Royal Assent in April and a commencement order signed today by digital minister Matt Hancock brings parts of it – including the new subtitling requirements and plans to improve digital connectivity – into force.

Ofcom regulations require a percentage of programmes to include subtitles, audio descriptions and signing – but only apply to traditional TV channels.

The new law will require on-demand broadcasters such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub to do the same.

Paul Breckell, chief executive of the charity Action on Hearing Loss, said: “How, where and when we can watch TV has moved on at an incredible pace.

“But people with hearing loss have been left behind when trying to enjoy catch-up TV and on-demand services as many of these programmes and films are inaccessible due to a lack of subtitles.”

Mr Breckell, whose charity has been campaigning on the lack of subtitling provision for years, said he will work with the government and Ofcom to ensure standards improve.

He added: “In an increasingly digital world, subtitles are essential to social inclusion so that people with hearing loss don’t miss out on conversations with family and colleagues about the latest must-see TV series that everyone’s talking about.”

'Strong, safe and connected'

Other parts of the Act coming into force today include measures to improve digital connectivity by simplifying planning rules and cutting the costs for new infrastructure.

The government says this will result in greater coverage in some of the hardest to reach places in the UK.

An online age verification process for accessing online pornography is expected to be in place by April 2018 and the government is cracking down on ticket touts by banning bot technology that buys up tickets and sells them at inflated prices.

Measures including the power to implement a new broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) have already come into force.

Digital Minister Mr Hancock said: “The Digital Economy Act is about building a strong, safe and connected economy.

“It will secure better support for consumers, better protection for children on the Internet, and underpin a radical transformation of government services.”

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