Ofcom has announced that it remains ‘deeply concerned’ by Channel 4’s subtitle failures and is considering what action is required to ensure problems don’t occur again.
The broadcaster has 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.
Although subtitles they have since returned to fan-favourite shows such as Great British Bake Off, The Last Leg and Gogglebox, Channel 4 recently announced subtitles, audio description and sign language interpreter services won’t be reinstated until next month.
Responding to the ongoing problems, Ofcom said in a statement: ‘We remain deeply concerned about the scale of the technical failures experienced by Channel 4 and the length of time taken to fix them.
‘These problems have caused deep upset and frustration among people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or partially sighted.
‘Channel 4 did not have strong backup measures in place, and it should not have taken several weeks to provide a clear, public plan and timeline for fixing the problem.
‘We expect Channel 4 to meet – or exceed – the timings it has set for restoring all its subtitling and other access services.
‘When this is done, Ofcom will review the equipment and facilities that Channel 4 had – and now has – in place, so that lessons can be learned.’
Ofcom added: ‘We will consider what action might be required to make sure broadcasters do not find themselves in this situation again, and that subtitles, signing and audio description remain reliable even when problems occur with the infrastructure used to provide them.’
The watchdog’s statement comes as Channel 4 suffered more broadcast issues going off air again.
Viewers tuning into Steph’s Packed Lunch on Wednesday were greeted with a frozen frame of comedian Dane Baptiste on the chat show.
The issue continued for several minutes shortly after 2pm before normal service resumed with an episode of the game show Countdown.
A statement from Channel 4 posted on Twitter said: ‘We’re sorry about our tech hiccup this afternoon and hope you can now view as normal. Further updates will be posted here.’
What is Ofcom and what does it cover?
Ofcom is the regulator for the communications services that we use and rely on each day.
The watchdog makes sure people get the best from their broadband, home phone and mobile services, as well as keeping an eye on TV and radio.
Ofcom deals with most content on television, radio and video-on-demand services, including the BBC. However, if your complaint is about something you saw or heard in a BBC programme, you may need to complain to the BBC first.
Its rules for television and radio programmes are set out in the Broadcasting Code.
The rules in the Broadcasting Code also apply to the BBC iPlayer.
This Broadcasting Code is the rule book that broadcasters have to follow and it covers a number of areas, including; protecting the under-18s, protecting audiences from harmful and/or offensive material and ensuring that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.
Audiences can complain to Ofcom if they believe a breach of the Broadcasting Code has been made.
Every time Ofcom receives a complaint from a viewer or listener, they assess it to see if it needs further investigation.
If Ofcom decide to investigate, they will include the case in a list of new investigations, published in the Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin.
An investigation is a formal process which can take some time depending on the complexity of the issues involved.
Ofcom can also launch investigations in the absence of a complaint from a viewer or listener.