UK TV regulator Ofcom is to investigate Channel 4 over an extended outage to its subtitling, signing and audio description services last year that left millions unable to watch TV for several weeks.
Following an incident at subtitling provider Red Bee Media’s facility, the network was without these services for around two months up until November 19, with “millions, including deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and partially-sighted people” impacted, according to Ofcom.
Channel 4 was not the only network to be impacted but it was the hardest hit, added Ofcom, which has opened the investigation today after Channel 4 failed to meet its subtitling quota for the Freesat platform. The investigation will examine the surrounding circumstances, including the extent to which Channel 4 promoted the awareness of the availability of its access services across all its channels and platforms during the period of the outage.
The incident led to a great deal of campaigning from deaf and disabled campaign groups in the UK TV sector, many of whom were unable to watch TV for weeks.
“Ofcom remains very concerned about the Red Bee incident,” said the regulator.
“It resulted in a lengthy outage to Channel 4’s access services provision and also wider disruption to its general broadcasts on all platforms. A number of other broadcasters were also affected, though to a less significant degree.”
Ofcom said it will “use the findings of this review to ensure that steps are taken to avoid future such incidents” and consider whether more regulatory action is required.
A Channel 4 spokesman said: “We apologise for the significant impact the Red Bee Media incident had on our access services. Channel 4 would like to reassure our audiences that we have thoroughly reviewed the resilience of our systems to ensure that such a catastrophic event cannot harm our ability to deliver these essential services in the future. Whilst we have not met our own high standards in 2021, we still delivered all of our overall statutory obligations and we are once again offering market-leading access services.”
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