The government has come up with new accessibility standards, under which almost all television channels will have to ensure that they either carry captions or sign language to help the hearing impaired understand the programming. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Tuesday floated a draft of the standards and asked for feedback from the stakeholders within a span of 21 days.
The standards shared by the ministry mention that all programming, barring “live and deferred live content/events such as sports: live news, events like live music shows, award shows, live reality shows, etc.; content like music shows, debates, scripted/ unscripted reality shows, etc.; and advertisements and teleshopping content” will have to adhere to these standards.
Channels which have less than 1 per cent average audience share for all households over a year will also be exempt from these standards.
The ministry noted that it is in process to get the “Accessibility Standards for Television Programmes for Hearing Impaired” notified under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, through the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, to make television content more inclusive for persons with hearing disabilities.
As per the standards, service providers “are required to deliver sub-titles/closed captioning/ sign language across specified television programmes in order to ensure access by hearing impaired to such television programmes”. However, the service providers or broadcasters will have the right to choose any one or more option from “Closed Captioning, Subtitles, Open Captioning and/or Sign Language”, as they feel will be most suited to the format of the programme and requirement of the viewers.
For sign language interpretation, the ministry has asked that channels and broadcasters “should be encouraged to provide it in a manner that the viewer can see not only the hands but also, where applicable, the facial expressions of the signer”.
The creators of the content will be responsible to create the content for these services and delivering it to the concerned channels and broadcasters, the ministry has said.
The ministry said it can make the accessibility measures mandatory “through regulations, licence conditions, accessibility targets and codes of good practice, and other relevant measures”.
In September 2017, the ministry had set up a committee of experts and stakeholders to deal with making TV viewing accessible to persons with hearing impairments. The committee then created a sub group that submitted its report in December 2018.