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Subtitle It! – More than 4 out of 5 deaf people excluded from watching favourite TV shows because of missing subtitles

Today (Friday 30 June) we are publishing the results of our survey on subtitles that we carried out earlier this year.

An infographic with the words: "Subtitle It! New report" with an image of the report cover in the background, showing two people wearing RNID tshirts with a placard and smiling.

Without access services such as subtitles and signing, TV is often unwatchable for deaf people and people with hearing loss. RNID have been campaigning for improved access to these services since 2015.   

Our new report highlights the importance of subtitles – 9/10 people who filled out our survey who are deaf or have hearing loss usually or always use subtitles when watching TV. 

The report also shows that many people are still facing barriers accessing TV programmes using on-demand platforms as subtitles are not available consistently.  

What you told us

A huge 97% of you told us that you tried to watch a programme in the last year and found there were no subtitles. More than 4 out of 5 of you (85%) told us that you had to stop watching the programme because there were no subtitles, and over a quarter (29%) were excluded from watching a programme with your family. Many of you told us that you felt excluded, frustrated and disappointed. 

Additionally, 90% of people who responded to our survey felt that paid subscription on-demand services should have to tell audiences how many of their programmes have subtitles before you pay to allow people to make informed decisions.  

We also asked you about additional features that some services are starting to offer on their own platforms. Less than 50% of survey respondents said that they were aware that you can change the appearance of subtitles on some on-demand services. 

What’s next? 

We are now calling on the government to introduce the Media Bill to Parliament as soon as possible to give deaf people and people with hearing loss equal access to TV on-demand. The Media Bill will: 

  • Require broadcasters to subtitle 80% of their content and provide signing for 5% of content 
  • Require services and third-party platforms to work together to resolve technical difficulties in providing subtitles 
  • Ensure viewers have a more consistent experience watching accessible content, regardless of what platform or device they use.

Teri Devine, Director for Inclusion at RNID, said: 

“It’s absolutely unacceptable that so many deaf people and people with hearing loss are not able to access the programmes they want to watch on-demand, and are excluded from watching TV with their families, because subtitles aren’t available.  

“The government promised to provide equal access to TV on-demand services six years ago when the Digital Economy Act was passed, and yet we are still waiting.

“Major on-demand services such as All4 and ITV X reported 0% subtitled content on some platforms in 2022, and the total provision of signed content remains incredibly low at 2.3%. 

Deaf people and people with hearing loss deserve better than this: the government must stop delaying and act now to make television and on-demand services accessible for all of us.”

“It’s not subtitled, but we try and watch anyway. But half way through I just give up … There’s no point without subtitles.

“How does that make me feel? I’m left feeling fed up, sad, angry, and excluded because of my deafness. I’m paying for these services like everyone else and I shouldn’t have to cope with this discrimination when subtitles aren’t available.”

– Brent, RNID volunteer with progressive, severe hearing loss. Read his story.
A picture of Brent and his wife, holding drinks and cheering as they pose for a photo.

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