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June 14, 2004

OFCOM 'could fail deaf viewers'

From: BBC News - London,England,UK - Jun 14, 2004

More than one million deaf or hearing impaired people could lose "vital access" to TV shows because of changes to subtitling, a group has warned.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People said watchdog Ofcom's plans to end yearly targets could cut services.

"It is crucial that Ofcom prioritises the needs of those excluded from TV," said RNID chief executive Dr John Low.

Ofcom said the RNID was "actively involved in the consultation". Final discussions are due on Tuesday.

The RNID has said Ofcom could be ending a long-established practice of setting yearly targets on the number of programmes that require subtitling.

"As a result just 10% of cable and satellite channel programmes will have to be subtitled for the next five years," Dr Low said.


"I hope that even at this eleventh hour Ofcom will rethink its current feeble proposals, and use its powers to make sure television is accessible for deaf and hard of hearing people," he said.

Dr Low said that this was in opposition to what Parliament wanted. They also said the costs of subtitling - at between £150 and £400 an hour - was a cost-effective way of attracting more viewers.

Ofcom said more than 90% of the subtitling came from just 50 of the TV channels available in the UK, but said they were taking the RNID's views into account.

"They have made many useful contributions to it. As the RNID know from our discussions with them, we are noting their concerns fully into account in the final discussions," an Ofcom spokeswoman said.