Since June 2015, the national charity, Action on Hearing Loss, has been campaigning the Government to increase access to on-demand TV and films for people experiencing hearing loss. Subtitle It! – the Action on Hearing Loss campaign for digital inclusion The purpose of the Subtitle It! campaign was to improve the accessibility of subtitles on catch-up TV and films, so that people experiencing hearing loss could enjoy on-demand viewing without concern about subtitles. Through lobbying Government, Action on Hearing Loss sought to influence MPs to require on-demand providers to include subtitling in their programming. A report titled ‘Progress on Pause’, led by Action on Hearing Loss, found that 87% of people experiencing hearing loss reported that they had started watching a programme on-demand and were forced to switch it off due to lack of subtitling. It is no wonder that over 6000 people joined the campaign to put an end to digital exclusion. In February 2017, the Government announced that video-on-demand subtitling would become a legal requirement. Prior to this announcement, many of these shows were supplied with subtitles when previously broadcast. The lack of any legal requirement, however, meant that subtitles were not provided in later on-demand programming. This meant that 76% of on-demand shows and films were inaccessible to the 7.5 million subtitle users in the UK. On 8 February 2017, the House of Lords approved a Government proposal to amend the Digital Economy Bill. These amendments provide enhanced powers to Ofcom, the TV regulator. Ofcom can now require on-demand broadcasters to incorporate subtitles into their programming. SkyTV and BT TV are already taking action, and have started to introduce more subtitles to catch-up and on-demand services. Nevertheless, these changes will not taking place overnight, but Action on Hearing Loss have stated that they will be keeping track of the progress that Ofcom makes in implementing Parliament’s ambitions. On-demand programming and hearing loss A recent YouGov poll indicated that, of people aged 18-24 years old, 41% now watch the majority of television on-demand, through services such as BBC’s iPlayer and YouTube. Just over one in four people (26%) in other age groups rely upon on-demand programming. These averages significantly increase for people who own ‘Smart TVs’, i.e. TVs that connect directly to the Internet without other devices. Taking into account all age groups, over a third (35%) indicated that the majority of their TV viewing is via on-demand services, and a whopping 53% of 18-24 year olds with Smart TVs said the same. So, what does this have to do with hearing loss? The YouGov poll makes it clear that the days of rushing home in order to catch your favourite show at 7pm are now a distant memory – and one that many young people may not even remember. ‘Catch-up’ TV and films mean that the average person can access their favourite shows and films on-demand, whenever they fancy. Why subtitles are important for people experiencing hearing loss The YouGov poll clearly shows that on-demand programming is something that many people consider a part of their daily lives, and many people may take access to such programming for granted. Considering there are 11 million people living in the UK who experience hearing loss, however, access to on-demand services is something that should not be overlooked. Subtitles are clearly essential to ensuring access to television and films. News programmes and documentaries are a fantastic way of keeping up with current events and social issues, and the latest TV dramas often form the basis of conversations with friends and family. Lacking access to such programmes could negatively impact upon a person’s ability to interact with others. Several studies have indicated that social isolation and exclusion disproportionately affect people with hearing loss, and it is one of the key impacts of hearing loss identified by the World Health Organization. It is obvious that measures need to be taken to increase inclusion. Ensuring access to subtitles and, more broadly, to those shows that everyone is talking about, is one step towards achieving that goal. If you think you may be experiencing hearing loss, don’t hesitate to contact one of our hearing professionals today. Hearing instruments can increase your connections with the world around you, whether through viewing TV on-demand or enhancing your ability to converse with your friends and loved ones. House of Hearing House of Hearing offers hearing care at four centres in Edinburgh, Galashiels, Perth, and St Andrews. Call us on 0131 220 1220 for more information.