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On-demand broadcasters legally required to include subtitles

The government passed the amendment as part of the Digital Economy Bill

The British government has voted in favour of a new law that will require VoD broadcasters to include minimum levels of subtitles.

The government passed the amendment as part of the Digital Economy Bill.

The bill will grant new powers to Ofcom, allowing it to set subtitling quotas for broadcasters as well as requirements for signing and audio description.

The amendment states that “the Secretary of State may impose requirements on providers of on-demand programmes services for the purpose of ensuring that their services are accessible to people with disabilities affecting their sight or hearing or both.”

Ofcom will now carry out a consultation period on the development of a new code that will lay out the quotas for the amount of on-demand content that must carry subtitles, and when the requirements will take effect.

The regulator will then report back to the government and make recommendations on the details of the code.

The ‘Charity Action on Hearing launched the Subtitle It!’ campaign in June 2015, calling on the government to introduce measures to improve the accessibility of subtitles on VoD content so that people with a hearing loss can catch-up on TV and films how and when they want.

Paul Breckell, Action on Hearing Loss chief executive said: “We are delighted that the House of Lords passed the Subtitle It! amendment to the Digital Economy Bill and welcome the government’s commitment to act on this. We now look forward to seeing access to subtitles across on-demand programmes enshrined in law.

“How, where and when we can watch TV has moved on at an incredible pace, but people with hearing loss have been left behind.

“We look forward to continuing to work directly with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Ofcom, and the broadcasting industry to ensure subtitles are available so that people with a hearing loss can enjoy catching up on their favourite TV shows just like their hearing peers.”