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December 22, 2003

Wider TV Services for Blind and Deaf Could Be on Way

From: The Scotsman, UK - Dec 22, 2003

By Anthony Barnes, Showbusiness Editor, PA News

Dozens of smaller TV channels in the UK could be forced to provide services for the blind and hard of hearing, it was announced today.

Many programmes by public service broadcasters – the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, S4C and Five – already have subtitles and some also have sign language or audio description.

But new broadcasting regulator Ofcom has proposed extending obligations to provide such services to around 50 channels.

It has begun a consultation on a proposal which would require all TV channels with a certain audience level to access services.

Some would be exempted if the cost was unaffordable, or if technical difficulties prevented it.

The channels would be required to meet targets which would rise over the years.

Ofcom is looking at issues such as the appropriate audience sizes.

Tim Suter, who is responsible for content and standards at Ofcom, said: "Ofcom wants to ensure that a much wider range of television services is available to people with visual and hearing difficulties.

Help The Aged welcomed the news today. A spokeswoman said: "People aged over 55 are the highest consumers of television, accounting for 40% of peak time audiences.

"At the same time, older people are most likely to suffer visual and hearing impairments. This announcement will go some way to increasing the range of television programmes available to this group."