ITV Wales drops local news sign language

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Thank you" in BSL
Image: Sladen.

Members of the National Assembly for Wales have condemned a decision by local broadcaster ITV Wales to drop sign language interpretation for the deaf.

South Wales Plaid Cymru AM Jocelyn Davies, a member of the Welsh Assembly Government, pointed out that the decision "means that deaf British Sign Language users in Wales will no longer have access to local news". Liberal Democrat AM Eleanor Burnham went further, saying it was "an outrageous decision which it seems has been taken without any consultation with deaf people at all, which is appalling".

ITV Wales announced that they were "discontinuing the signed 20 second headlines every weekday" after 23 years and that doing so would bring the Welsh local news programme Wales Tonight "in line with all other ITV regions". They added that "ITV will continue to meet its licence obligations for signing across its family of channels" and that the bulletin would keep its optional subtitling. The move apparently has the blessing of media regulator Ofcom.

The Wales Deaf Broadcasting Council said that it was a "severe blow" and that it was "very concerned that no consultation with the deaf community has taken place about this decision, neither by ITV Wales nor Ofcom".

Plaid's Adam Price said "I am... concerned about the very short notice given for implementation of this decision. I hope that this is not an attempt by ITV Wales to achieve a fait accompli".

ITV has been scaling back its public service broadcasting commitments recently, saying it wished to stop producing and airing local news at all. Ofcom has already allowed the weekly amount of news on ITV Wales to fall from five hours and twenty minutes to four hours.