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An open letter to get subtitles on GB News

We were disappointed to see no subtitles on any of the content from GB News this week. We campaign for inclusivity in every part of society, so we are writing an open letter.

What we want to get from this letter

  • GB News to provide subtitles on its channel and social media content.
  • GB News to consider the wider needs of deaf people and ensure that the standards set out in their Editorial Charter are applied to our community. 
  • Normalise the provision of subtitles on TV. 
  • Challenge the assumption it’s acceptable to provide new services without accessibility features built in.

Read the letter in full

Dear Mr Neil,

I’d like to congratulate you on the launch of GB News. I am writing from RNID, the charity making life fully inclusive for deaf people and those with hearing loss or tinnitus.

In your opening statement on the launch of GB News you told the nation that ‘on all of our programmes and platforms you’ll always know what’s going on and what the country is talking about’. It was therefore disappointing to us that your content so far has been broadcast, streamed and shared without subtitles. Both your linear channel and the clips shared across your social media channels have therefore been inaccessible for many of the 12 million people in the UK who are deaf or have hearing loss and the 7.1 million who have tinnitus.

Subtitles would allow deaf people to access your channel and be a part of the conversation that GB News wants to have with the nation.

We believe that a failure to provide access for deaf people is a failure to live up to the principles GB News has set itself in its Editorial Charter:

  • An inaccessible channel undermines the ‘right of every individual to form and share their views’.
  • A failure to provide subtitles means that GB news is not placing ‘all its communities at the heart of everything we do’.
  • You cannot isolate the deaf community and still claim that on ‘ethical matters we apply the very highest standards to maintain the trust of our audience’.

In your Editorial Charter you also say that ‘If we get it wrong, we will say so’. I hope that you are able to live up to this standard and admit it was wrong to launch GB News without accessibility in place.

We appreciate that it will be sometime before GB News is under a regulatory obligation to provide access services for viewers with sensory loss, given the audience threshold and longevity set out in Ofcom’s Code on Television Access Services. However, we are surprised that a project of the scale and ambition of GB News wouldn’t want to go above the regulatory floor for accessibility. There is a substantial commercial and moral imperative for the provision of access services.

We would be more than willing to discuss this with you, or an appropriate person from GB News, or to share the evidence we have on the extensive viewer benefit that access services create. If this would be of interest then please do not hesitate to contact our Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs.

We hope that you will revisit the lack of access services on your channel and ensure that the deaf community can enjoy your coverage for many years to come.

I wish you luck for the future of GB News and I look forward to receiving your response.

Yours sincerely

Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive, RNID

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