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Ofcom to investigate Channel 4’s access services outage

Ofcom is launching an investigation into Channel 4’s loss of subtitles, audio description and signing services brought about by a fire at Red Bee Media’s broadcast centre last September.

As part of its investigation, Ofcom said it intends to undertake a review of the transmission arrangements and backup facilities the affected broadcasters had in place at the time of the outage, and what changes they have made or planned as a result.

The regulator said it remains “very concerned” about the Red Bee incident, which resulted in a lengthy outage to Channel 4’s access services provision and also wider disruption to its general broadcasts on all platforms. A number of other broadcasters were also affected on the night of the fire.

Channel 4 was the worst affected of all the broadcasters, with its access services unavailable across its broadcast channels from 25th September until 19th November.

Ofcom said it intends to use its findings to ensure steps are taken to avoid future such incidents having such a serious impact on viewers. “We will also consider whether further regulatory action is needed to ensure reliable access services for audiences – no matter what incidents may occur to the infrastructure used to provide them,” the regulator added.

“These problems caused deep upset and frustration among the millions of people who rely on subtitles, signing or audio description to enjoy TV,” said Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s group director for broadcasting.

“Channel 4 took several weeks to provide a clear, public plan and timeline for fixing the problems. As well as investigating Channel 4, we’re reviewing the wider effects of the outage to make sure broadcasters learn lessons and protect access services in future.” TVB Europe

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