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We write to Ofcom over Channel 4’s subtitles failure

Published Date: 22 Oct 2021

• The National Deaf Children’s Society has asked Ofcom to intervene over Channel 4’s “completely unacceptable” delay in fixing subtitles problem.
• Outcry from deaf people unable to enjoy their favourite TV programmes for almost two months.
• The charity says the situation is a “complete dereliction of duty” to the UK’s 12 million deaf people.

The National Deaf Children's Society has written to Ofcom asking for regulatory action over Channel 4’s current lack of subtitles.

The charity has stepped in after the broadcaster announced on Tuesday that its full access services might not be available until mid-November.
It leaves deaf people across the UK facing another month of being unable to enjoy their favourite TV programmes with family and friends.

Up to 12 million could be affected by the situation, which the National Deaf Children’s Society has described as a “complete dereliction of duty” to deaf viewers. Subtitles are critical for people who are unable to hear television programmes and many simply can’t watch without them.

In the letter, the charity expresses “grave concern” over the delay and calls on the regulator to intervene due to the “severe detrimental impact” on deaf young viewers.

Describing Channel 4’s anticipated completion date of mid-November as too little, too late, the charity wants to see regulatory action to make sure that subtitles are reintroduced as soon as possible.

Mike Hobday, Director of Policy and Campaigns at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:

“It’s simply unacceptable that Channel 4 is unable to provide subtitles for its viewers. We’re hearing from numerous deaf children and young people who are deeply frustrated at not being able to watch their favourite programmes with their family and friends. If there was no sound on TV, there would be a national outcry.

“Until recently, Channel 4 has been widely celebrated as a force for good in the disability sector, promoting and advancing disability awareness, equality and inclusion. However, the failure of its planning and the weakness of its response leaves us wondering whether accessibility remains a priority.

“Reinstating subtitles quickly would mean the welcome return of programmes that have effectively been ‘off air’ to deaf people for weeks. It would also send the message that young deaf people are valued viewers too.”

Maia, a deaf 16-year-old from Sussex, said:

“I am missing vital moments in Channel 4 shows, especially The Great British Bake Off. It makes me feel frustrated that I can’t laugh at any of the jokes, let alone understand what is happening.”