Letter: ITV networks have forgotten subtitles

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Sir: The Royal National Institute for the Deaf's statistics show 7.5 million people in the UK suffering full or partial hearing loss. Many - if not most - of these are dependent on teletext subtitling to watch television. This makes a matter of concern the present situation vis-a-vis the inadequate provision of subtitles on the independent television network.

Since the disappearance of Oracle - which performed a central function - provision of subtitling on the independent network has become the responsibility of the regional companies. Their performance in this role since the turn of the year has been quite appalling, with programmes scheduled for titles going out with no subtitles, garbled titles or even wrong titles for that particular programme.

For any individual approaching - as I have - the regional companies, there appears to be the most cavalier and indifferent attitude to this problem.

All this raises the question of who monitors performance of ITV companies once a franchise is awarded. With subtitling specifically referred to in the ITV franchise, it is evident several companies are not meeting their statutory responsibilities. Despite this, no one seems to care, and the ITV Association is a paper tiger which wrings its hands and does nothing. Indeed, the association's one excuse is that independent companies have met more problems post-Oracle than they had expected. But this is, surely, not enough?

With more than 12 months to prepare technically for the changeover, the ITV companies had more than enough time to handle the difficulties had they assigned this an appropriate priority. The truth is that they treat the deaf with disdain and subtitling - unlike at the BBC - has always been assigned a low priority by the independent companies.

So what happens now? Perhaps the one hope comes from the advertisers, who must by now be concerned that thousands of viewers are switching off sets - or switching channels - because of the absence of subtitles.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN GURNSEY

Bellingdon, Buckinghamshire

8 January

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