Channel 4 has confirmed that it could take them until at least mid-November to bring subtitles, signing, and audio description back to their programming as the outage looms on its fourth week.
The fire suppressant system at a broadcast centre owned by Red Bee Media, who handle Channel 4’s playout services, destroyed a series of hard disks on September 25, which knocked out the broadcaster’s access services. Attempts were made to use the backup subtitling system, but they were unable to get it working.
Despite the incident affecting other broadcasters – like the BBC and Channel 5 – their services have now been restored. Channel 4 has said that they are in the process of creating a new system from scratch, and hope to have the services restored before their current estimate of mid-November.
Fans of hit Channel 4 shows like Bake Off and Gogglebox were understandably angry to find their favourite shows lacked subtitles, but the broadcaster has confirmed that they will be slowly adding subtitles to its most popular shows on its All 4 catch-up service as of this week, but acknowledges that “this isn’t good enough, but it’s a start.”
A spokesperson from Ofcom, who received around 500 complaints relating to the matter, told iNews that the watchdog was “extremely concerned given the impact of people who rely on these services to access television,” and noted that they would be monitoring the situation as it progressed.
They added: “If any broadcasters fail to meet their annual access service requirements as a result of these issues, we will consider the appropriate regulatory response.”
In an episode of The Last Leg, host Adam Hills also took the broadcaster to task on their lack of access, joking that the channel is currently being “run off a laptop in someone’s bedroom,” before joking that there was “no truth to the rumour that Boris Johnson was seen walking through Channel 4 holding a lighter in the air.”
He added: “For those of you who rely on subtitles, they still aren’t working, I can only say this,” before holding up a card reading “sorry there’s still no subtitles”.
In a statement, Channel 4 apologised for the “incredibly frustrating” problem, stating that they understood how vital their access services are to their viewers. However, they noted that the installation of a new system is an incredibly complicated task, and in order to not risk the channel going down again, they have to work cautiously overnight to maintain service.
They said: “We know that this will be incredibly disappointing to everyone, but we do need to get this right. In the meantime we will continue to put our most popular programmes that you have missed, with subtitles on All 4.”