Ofcom has spoken out on Channel 4’s subtitle issue (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)
Ofcom has ruled that Channel 4 breached its licence conditions over the subtitle issues it faced last year.
In 2021, Channel 4 experienced an extended outage of its subtitling, signing and audio description services.
During the outage, Channel 4 fell short of the statutory requirement to subtitle 90% of its programme hours over 2021 on Freesat.
Ofcom has now concluded an investigation into the outage and said in a press release: ‘Our investigation found that, as a result of an incident at a broadcast centre run by Red Bee Media, Freesat audiences who rely on subtitles were unable to fully access Channel 4 programmes for nearly two months.
‘Given this prolonged outage, the Channel 4 service fell short of the statutory requirement to subtitle 90% of its programme hours over 2021 on the Freesat service.
‘Ofcom also found that Channel 4 breached another condition of its licence by failing to effectively communicate with affected audiences about the availability of access services in the weeks following the incident.
‘We are also publishing today our broader review of the broadcast centre incident, which has highlighted an urgent need for all broadcasters to improve and audit their disaster recovery plans.
‘These must include clear communications plans in case of interruptions to service, which take into account different audiences and their particular needs.’
Ofcom concluded its investigation (Picture: Getty Images)
A spokesperson for Channel 4 told Metro.co.uk: ‘Channel 4 is very disappointed with Ofcom’s decision and will review its findings carefully.
‘We would like to apologise once again to our audiences for the disruption to our access services following the catastrophic incident last September and since then we have implemented a number of new systems and processes to avoid a serious incident in the future.’
The broadcaster had been grappling with technical issues since the end of September with audio problems plaguing output meaning hearing and visually impaired viewers have struggled to enjoy programmes for several weeks.
In a statement released in September, Channel 4 explained how ‘on Saturday 25 September, the fire suppression system was triggered at Red Bee Media’s broadcast centre (the company handles playout services and broadcasting technology for a number of channels), which transmits all Channel 4’s services’.
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As a result, a variety of systems and hardware was severely damaged, and while the emergency backup systems were immediately activated, they are still encountering ‘significant problems’ with providing access service for programmes broadcast since the incident.
‘We know that this is incredibly frustrating for you and your families who rely on these services to watch your favourite programmes,’ Channel 4 said in the statement.
Channel 4 has committed to 100% of programming on linear channels to be subtitled in 2022, and for 100% of All4 programming to be subtitled by the end of 2022.
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