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Additional Questions for Stephen Carter, Chief Executive of Ofcom

Broadcast

1. EPGs. It is understood that there is little room to place all three Access Service abbreviations within the Primary Listings and at present they must form part of the synopsis. I do however have concerns that this will lead to viewers needing to make at least two key strokes to obtain the information for each individual channel. This is not just a matter of being a tiresome exercise, but for those with poor eyesight and cognitive problems it has the potential for confusion. (By having the abbreviations within the Primary Listing means that all channels can be seen at a glance.) Could the solution be to have a dedicated access services listing page detailing "today's" programmes? (Such pages are available on analogue teletext.) As the EPG providers will already have the information ready to be placed within each channel's synopsis - might it be possible by means of a software tag, to duplicate it on a separate listing? The effort therefore may be minimal.

2. Does Ofcom appreciate the complexity of the current regulatory framework they have created (with three tiers of regulation) for consumers? Will Ofcom reconsider the merits of different tiers of regulation when the Code on Television Services is reviewed?

3. Ofcom has made a commitment to formally review the Access Code on Access Services in a year's time and to also review the existing ITC standards on television subtitles. How will this process be carried out and what research will Ofcom undertake in 2005 that will support these future reviews?

4. How does Ofcom deal with complaints about television subtitles and sign language interpretation? Does Ofcom accept the need for a dedicated contact point to be established which would deal with feedback from deaf and hard of hearing people?

5. First year Target Levels. We all endorsed Stephen's praise for those broadcasters who prior to legislation voluntarily provided a large proportion of subtitles. I have to report however that one major broadcaster, operating a bouquet of channels, is reducing the current output from some 25% to the required minimum of 6.6%. While Ofcom have no powers to require a continuation of this relatively high voluntary level, is there is an opportunity here to offer some "encouragement" not to proceed with this drastic reduction?

6. Target levels publication. Presuming that the quarterly reviews will extend to the target levels achieved by individual channels; can we expect the reviews to be made public?

7. The subtitling and sign language interpretation industry is rapidly developing and new technology such as voice recognition and new software packages are assisting companies in their production of subtitles and sign language interpretation (including the provision of closed signing). What dealings does Ofcom have with these companies and will it ensure that relevant staff frequently visit or stay in contact with them? Will Ofcom require subtitlers to be appropriately qualified?

8. How are Ofcom working with broadcasters to evaluate the success of the sign language interpreted programmes that they have supplied? And how can Ofcom help to ensure that signed programmes are presented in the most appropriate way for the audience that requires them, particularly younger deaf children for whom subtitles are not suitable?

Telecommunications

1. How will Ofcom make sure that we take advantage quickly of new technologies and services and make sure that deaf people are not left behind and forced to rely on outdated technology?

2. Deaf people in other countries are already enjoying a choice of alternative types of relay services. How will Ofcom ensure that deaf people in the UK will be able to access the type of relay service of their choice?

3. Will Ofcom consider awarding a number of contracts to provide relay services thus introducing an element of competition which should encourage the services to keep up with future developments in technology?

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