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June 14, 2004

Broadcast regulator 'fails the deaf'

From: Financial Times, UK - Jun 14, 2004

By Rohit Jaggi

The regulator of the broadcasting industry is criticised today for failing to take the needs of those with impaired hearing into account. The Office of Communications is being attacked over the subtitling requirements it plans to impose on broadcasters. The Royal National Institute for Deaf People says the targets are insufficient for the 1m people who have to use subtitles and the 5m who use them regularly. While up to 80 per cent of programming by the public service broadcasters - including the five terrestrial channels channels - is subtitled, the 2003 Communications Act lays down that 60 per cent of cable and satellite programmes by many broad-casters must be subtitled by 2008, and 80 per cent by 2013. Ofcom proposed in its consultation that the cable and satellite stations needed to subtitle only 10 per cent of their programmes before 2008, with no interim step-ups.

But John Low, chief executive of the RNID, said: "Ofcom's current plan to exclude 75 per cent of licensed television channels from meeting any access requirements for people with a sensory disability whatsoever is primarily due to its exaggerated estimation of the costs involved." Ofcom, however, stresses that it has yet to make a final determination for the new code it aims to have place this summer. Rohit Jaggi

© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2004.