Page last updated at 17:56 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

ITV Wales drops signing for deaf

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ITV is already under fire for cutting Welsh programming to save money

ITV Wales has been criticised by deaf people and politicians for dropping sign language bulletins from its flagship news programme.

The Wales Deaf Broadcasting Council (WDBC) said the deaf community was not consulted and it was a "severe blow".

Lib Dem AM Eleanor Burnham called the decision "outrageous" and "appalling".

ITV Wales said it was bringing Wales Tonight "in line with all other ITV regions" and that all its bulletins would "continue to be subtitled".

"ITV will continue to meet its licence obligations for signing across its family of channels", the company said in a statement.

The statement by ITV that subtitles will be continued has no impact on those who rely on sign language, which is the preferred language of a number of deaf viewers and the medium for receiving information
Wales Deaf Broadcasting Council

The dropping of the short bulletins will coincide with a cut in the amount of airtime devoted to news on ITV Wales from five hours 20 minutes a week to four hours a week from Monday, 9 February, agreed with the media regulator Ofcom.

WDBC said it was "very concerned that no consultation with the deaf community has taken place about this decision, neither by ITV Wales nor Ofcom".

"The statement by ITV that subtitles will be continued has no impact on those who rely on sign language, which is the preferred language of a number of deaf viewers and the medium for receiving information."

In its statement, Ofcom said it "appreciates that sign language users in Wales will regret ITV Wales's decision to end sign presented news headlines on Wales Tonight".

The regulator said that it had only been told of the plan last Friday, and "current legislation requires ITV to sign a proportion of its programming but does not require ITV to seek Ofcom's agreement to which programmes should be accompanied by signing".

Ms Burnham called ITV's move "an outrageous decision which it seems has been taken without any consultation with deaf people at all, which is appalling".

'Beggars belief'

She urged the company to abandon the plan "as a matter of urgency" and asked other AMs to back her call by tabling a joint statement of opinion on the Welsh assembly's website with Labour AM Ann Jones.

"To remove this signing facility after 23 years simply so that Wales can fall in line with the English regions beggars belief," said Ms Burnham.

"If anything, English regions should be following the Welsh model and providing signed news headlines as well".

Ms Jones, who chairs an all-party group on deaf issues, said she was "extremely disappointed" and "will do all that I can to help reverse it".

"The Welsh Assembly Government has officially recognised BSL (British Sign Language) a language in its own right and it deserves to be treated with the same respect as Welsh.

"Quite frankly BSL services in Wales are not up to scratch as it is and this move by ITV will only serve to make things worse.

"I hope the channel will reconsider its position and acknowledge its duty to those viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing," she added.

Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price said: "I had no idea that this was even being considered.

"This is very sad and will be a great loss to BSL users across Wales. I will write to Alun Ffred Jones, the minister with responsibility for broadcasting, to highlight this situation.

"I believe that Ofcom might be unaware of the Welsh language implications of their decision.

"I am also 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."

SEE ALSO
BBC Wales news alternative needed
21 Jan 09 |  Wales politics
New TV channel in Wales is urged
03 Dec 08 |  Wales politics

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