THE BLOG
09/06/2015 11:11 BST | Updated 09/06/2016 06:59 BST

It's Time To Put An End To Digital Exclusion

Imagine if you couldn't get involved in friends' or colleagues' conversations about Games of Thrones, Breaking Bad or W1A? As FOMO (that's Fear Of Missing Out, for anyone over 35 like me) continues to take hold, it's not acceptable for broadcasters to continue cutting one in nine people out of the popular culture of their generation.

When did life become so busy? We consume the bulk of our information in 140 characters, read more news online than ever before and watch TV and films wherever and whenever we want.

Gone are the days of rushing home and settling down on the couch to catch the latest episode of our favourite TV show. Or are they?

Not for 7.5 million Brits, who still can't access the everyday On Demand services that the rest of us can - all because On Demand providers don't offer us the option to watch again with subtitles.

We've all seen the TV subtitle gaffes - from the sale of millions of puppies (not poppies) on Remembrance Day to a glitch announcing "Wales has died after suffering a suspected embolism" and the renaming of Silvio Berlusconi to Mr Beryl Beryl - yet subtitles have actually come on leaps and bounds since they were first broadcast 35 years ago.

The first live programme to be broadcast with subtitles was Blue Peter and, just over 20 years later, in 2008, the BBC continued to lead the way as the first broadcaster to subtitle 100% of their main channel content. Since then Channel 4 has followed suit and ITV1 are very nearly there.

But the availability of subtitles simply isn't keeping up with the new ways we are consuming media.

The latest report by regulator ATOVD (The Authority for Television on Demand) found that 93% of the UK's On Demand broadcasters don't provide subtitles on their mobile or tablet apps and even a service leader like Sky only offers subtitles on 4% of its On Demand services.

Something must change if we are to avoid the digital exclusion of deaf and hard of hearing people and the millions of others who rely on subtitles to watch TV and online content.

The Government acknowledged this issue back in July 2013, stating that they would consider extending legislation of access services such as subtitles, signing and audio description "if it is clear that progress isn't being made in three years' time." Currently, unlike scheduled, 'traditional' TV, there are no regulations obliging 'on demand' providers to offer subtitles.

With four out of five On Demand providers still not offering any subtitles across their platforms and just a year to go before the government's self-set deadline, the time to act is now - which is why charity Action on Hearing Loss has launched 'Subtitle it!' A campaign calling on Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, to stick to his Department's promise so that everyone can access the programmes they want to wherever and whenever they want to.

Imagine if you couldn't get involved in friends' or colleagues' conversations about Games of Thrones, Breaking Bad or W1A? As FOMO (that's Fear Of Missing Out, for anyone over 35 like me) continues to take hold, it's not acceptable for broadcasters to continue cutting one in nine people out of the popular culture of their generation.

Find out more about the charity's campaign or get involved at actiononhearingloss.org.uk/SubtitleIt