Channel 4 subtitles outage breached license, Ofcom rules | Channel 4


Channel 4 breached the terms of its broadcast license by not providing enough captioned programs to some viewers in autumn 2021 after a sound boom destroyed equipment used to broadcast its programs, the dog has found media guard.

An investigation by media regulator Ofcom concluded that Channel 4, which is under threat of privatisation, breached its license terms when a fire alarm caused the sonic boom which damaged computer servers.

Ofcom said on the evening of September 25, a fire alarm went off at a broadcast center run by Red Bee Media, a private company specializing in ‘playout’ services for UK broadcasters. The fire alarm system was designed to rapidly reduce the oxygen level in the area through the release of nitrogen gas stored under high pressure. Unfortunately, it also created a sonic boom that damaged many computer servers beyond repair.

Red Bee acts as an intermediary on behalf of most UK TV channels, taking the data files for each program and combining them with subtitles and associated technical information. It sends the combined data stream for transmission to people’s homes via Freeview, satellite and cable television services.

Although the BBC and Channel 5 were also affected by the fire alarm incident, they were able to restore services relatively quickly using well-established backup procedures. However, Channel 4 maintained its own disaster recovery facility which was not prepared to provide captioning and audio description services. It took until November for these to be fully restored, making it difficult for hard of hearing and deaf viewers to watch many programs.

Ofcom noted the incident was ‘unprecedented’ but found that the broadcaster’s ‘protracted outage’ of captioning, signature and audio descriptions meant the Channel 4 service ‘failed to meet the legal obligation to caption 90% of its program hours in 2021 on the Freesat service”. .

The media watchdog said it also found the broadcaster breached another license condition by failing to communicate effectively with affected audiences after the incident.

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The incident is particularly troublesome for Channel 4, which values ​​inclusivity by showing the Paralympic Games and other programs featuring people with disabilities.

A statement from the broadcaster said: “Channel 4 is very disappointed with Ofcom’s decision and will carefully consider its findings. We would like to once again apologize to our public 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.


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