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TV stations failing to cater for hearing and visually disabled, says ombudswoman

Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottides

Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottidou on Monday described as “reprehensible” the fact that TV broadcasters have not yet complied with a legislative obligation introduced ten years ago to gradually provide accessibility for people with hearing and visual disabilities to five per cent of their programmes beyond news bulletins.

These would include subtitles or dubbing.

Stylianou-Lottidou spoke about the lack of progress in implementing provisions of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in a report where she highlights the failure of TV stations to safeguard the access of such persons to audiovisual media.

According to the report, her office examined two complaints lodged by people with hearing loss about the failure of television stations to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities. “It is reprehensible that television broadcasters have not complied with their legislative obligation since 2010,” the ombudswoman said.

The common complaint was that the complainants felt excluded from equal access to the media, and in particular to television programmes because of the lack of subtitles.

In her response the ombudswoman cited an EU directive designed to ensure continuous access to media, including television for persons with disabilities. Under the directive, the means of achieving accessibility should include sign language, written and spoken subtitles (dubbing) and audio descriptions of non-verbal scenes. The rights of the complainants were also guaranteed under the UN convention, Stylianou-Lottidou said.

The ombudswoman raised the issue with the broadcasting watchdog.

“The main argument put forward by the organisations involved was the high cost, and the 2013 financial crisis,” the watchdog said.

The television stations had been asked to submit specific data demonstrating the projected costs to make more programmes accessible as far back as last year, the broadcasting authority said, but failed to meet the March 2019 deadline for submission.

After consulting its legal advisers, the broadcasting authority proceeded with investigations into the violations of the Cyprus law in this respect. Though the EU directive however has not been fully transposed into national legislation yet, the 2010 Cyprus law does contain the necessary provisions requiring more programme accessibility.



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