– Public invited to offer feedback –
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has today (26th May 2014) launched a public consultation on proposed changes to rules governing the levels of subtitling, sign language and audio-description that Irish television broadcasters must offer to the public. The new rules will update the current Access Rules in place since 2005 and last reviewed in 2012.
The proposals are aimed at making television more enjoyable and accessible for people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, partially sighted or blind. The changes are being proposed following a review by the BAI of the rules introduced in 2012.
The consultation will remain open until 23rd July and the BAI is seeking responses from the general public, representative groups and broadcasters. People interested in responding to the consultation can do so online via http://access.baifuture.ie , where the consultation document is available in signed video, sub-titled and audio formats.
Speaking at the launch of the public consultation, the Chairperson of the BAI, Bob Collins, said: “The Access Rules have been in place since 2005 and there have been significant changes to the amount of home produced and live content available on Irish television over the past nine years. Advances in technology and the switch over to Digital TV in 2012 have also provided new methods by which broadcasters can provide programming to the Irish viewing audience, which includes those with hearing or sight difficulties.
“The Access Rules contain target ranges which set out the percentage of programming that should have subtitling, sign language or audio description on each television channel. The percentage target ranges increase each year – over a five-year period – and different targets are set for each broadcaster.
“An initial review of the current rules, undertaken by the BAI in recent months, suggests that they do not require significant change. It also found that broadcasters were broadly compliant with the rules in terms of the amount of access services they have made available over the past two years. However, the predominant concern of service users relates to the quality of access service provision, and in this regard more work remains to be done.
“The review also found that the use of percentage target ranges (e.g. a requirement to provide between 20-25% of subtitling in 2014) rather than one specific percentage target (e.g. 25% by 2014) has incentivised broadcasters to take on the more challenging aspects of access service provision. Rather than aim for one specific percentage target each year, broadcasters may choose to achieve the lower end of the new target range if they are providing a type of access provision that is particularly challenging, resource intensive or offering something new to the audience of access users. Examples of this would be a broadcaster taking on a move to live subtitling, or subtitling of a particular programme genre not offered elsewhere, e.g. live sports. In the absence of such initiatives, broadcasters are expected to aim for the higher end of the target range,” he said.
Under the changes proposed to the Rules, RTÉ 1 will be required to reach a subtitling target of 87-92% by 2018, as compared to 82-87% in 2014. In the case of TV 3, it will be required to reach a subtitling target of 51-55% compared to 43-47% in the current year.
Subtitling targets are also set for the first time for the three RTÉ television services established in 2011, namely RTÉjr, RTÉ Plus 1 and RTÉ News Now.
As with previous reviews, audiences who use access services do not want the rules to specify the genres of programming that broadcasters should prioritise in terms of access provision. The one exception is that users welcome the prioritisation of content that is made in Ireland and/or is unique to Irish broadcasters.
Mr. Collins went on to say: “The BAI has undertaken significant research and has engaged in a comprehensive consultation process in the development of the current draft Rules. We believe that the revised Rules will offer greater access to better quality programmes for people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, partially sighted or blind. However, these are simply proposals and we are keen to seek the views of all the interested parties before the Access Rules are finalised.”
The BAI also announced details at the launch of the various formats by which the consultation document can be accessed. People interested in responding to the consultation can do so online via http://access.baifuture.ie , where the consultation document is available in signed video, sub-titled and audio formats. Submissions can also be made in writing to the BAI at 2-5 Warrington Place, Dublin 2. Alternatively, the BAI will accept submissions by text to 51000 (commencing the text with ‘BAI’) or by phone to a dedicated LoCall 1890 940 490. The deadline for receipt of submissions is 23rd July.
In order to further promote the consultation, the BAI will undertake briefing meetings with stakeholders from user-groups and broadcasters. In addition, it will undertake a mail-out to wider stakeholders and will use social media, as well as traditional media, to promote the consultation around the proposed rules.
Tony Heffernan / Catherine Heaney,
DHR Communications @ 087 2399508 / 087-2309835