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An Ofcom investigation has found Channel 4 breached the conditions of its broadcast licence following an extended outage of its subtitling, signing and audio description services.


"Our broader review of the broadcast centre incident found that Channel 4’s ability to respond to the technology failure at Red Bee was not sufficiently resilient, given its back-up subtitling system failed. It took four weeks for subtitles to be restored on Sky, Freeview, Youview and Virgin Media. It was another four weeks before subtitles were 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.

Broadcasters must also make audiences aware of the availability of access services. But we found serious failings and delays in Channel 4’s communications with affected audiences:

  • Channel 4 did not provide any information about the cause of the outage or steps being taken to resolve it for 12 days following the incident;

  • On-screen TV guides included inaccurate information about the availability of Channel 4 access services until 14 October 2021;

  • Deaf viewers were likely to be among those most impacted by the outage, but Channel 4 did not provide any information to viewers in British Sign Language until 15 October 2021; and

  • Channel 4 did not broadcast on-air advice and information about the outage until 15 October 2021, nearly three weeks after the outage began. Audiences who did not have access to Channel 4’s online information would have had no understanding about the scale of the issues or that the company was working to rectify them. We were particularly concerned about the impact on older, blind, or partially sighted access services users, whose access to online information may be more limited.

Channel 4 must now report to Ofcom by the end of this year on the steps it has taken to ensure greater resilience of its access services, as well as how it is continuing to improve the accessibility of its broadcast and on-demand programmes."


"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."


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