Channel 4 ‘fell short of statutory requirements’ over subtitling failure.
Media regulator Ofcom has ruled Channel 4 breached its broadcast licence when it failed to deliver access services during an outage last year.
An incident at a broadcast centre run by Red Bee Media severely disrupted Channel 4’s ability to provide access services, which includes subtitles and audio description.
An Ofcom investigation found it took four weeks for subtitles to be restored across TV services such as Sky and Freeview. It took another four weeks to be restored on Freesat.
As a result, Channel 4 fell short of its annual quota to subtitle 90% of programmes on Freesat – achieving only 85.41% – in breach of its licence conditions.
The report says Channel 4 were slow to announce what had happened along with communicating effectively with its audience about the availability of its access services. Channel 4 did not broadcast on-air advice about the outage, nearly three weeks after it begun.
Ofcom has asked Channel 4 to report back to them on how they plan to avoid any future outage of access services. Channel 4 say they have already begun implementing changes and will review the findings by Ofcom.
“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.” – Channel 4
The incident at the Red Bee broadcast centre in London was caused by a release of fire-suppressant gas. Shockwaves caused severe damage to servers, including back-up servers. Channel 4 weren’t the only broadcaster affected by the incident last September, but were the most severely. Ofcom’s report has asked all broadcasters to improve their disaster recovery plans and processes.