Joint Committee on Draft Communications Bill Report


313. Clauses 203 to 207 provide a mechanism for giving effect to the Government's commitment to strengthen targets for subtitling on digital terrestrial television, to extend those requirements to digital cable and satellite services and to make other provision to improve television for the deaf and hard of hearing and those who are blind or partially-sighted.[604] The RNID has broadly welcomed the proposals for increased sub-titling and signing provision, while calling for final targets to be even more stretching for public service broadcasters and for demanding interim targets to be imposed on cable and satellite broadcasters.[605] The Royal National Institute for the Blind was less satisfied with the ten per cent target for audio-description, which it viewed with "deep disappointment".[606] The Satellite and Cable Broadcasters' Group criticised both the decision to move from a voluntary system to a statutory code and the absence of clear criteria for exclusion from the provisions.[607] The Government has argued that the additional burden on industry arising from these measures is justified by the public benefit.[608] We agree. Over 5 million people regularly use subtitles; it has been estimated that by 2031 at least 2.5 million people in the United Kingdom will be living with a sight problem.[609] Improved provision for sub-titling, audio-description and signing is a necessity not a luxury. We welcome Clauses 203 to 207 which provide a sound framework to extend such provision across all licensed services in coming years.

604   HC (2000-01) 161-I, para 123; Cm 5010, para 7.6.2. Back

605   Ev 530. Back

606   Ev 530, para 5.11. Back

607   Ev 533, section 5. Back

608   RIA, paras C3, C55-C74. Back

609   HC (2000-01) 161-I, para 123; Ev 530, para 1.2. Back

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Prepared 31 July 2002