The repercussions of the Red Bee incident continue. Channel 4 has suffered a fortnight of cock-ups and calamities – as well as simple mistakes, some programmes have looked poor because of problems with the black level or suffered from poor sound mixes.
While Channel 4 has acknowledged the problems publicly, the lack of actual on-air apologies has been surprising.
Most reasonable people understand that mistakes, and occasionally disasters, happen. Outside the industry, few people will know or care that playout is outsourced to a specialist company. Indeed would they even know what’s meant by playout?
But a few simple mentions – to accept things have not been as they should be – simply treat the viewers (i.e., the customers) with respect and stop misconceptions arising.
Perhaps the biggest disaster concerns subtitling though. Channel 4 has now been without subtitles for 13 days.
The importance of subtitling to those with some hearing loss (not just the profoundly deaf) is hard to overstate. It is a vital service.
Ofcom is watching this closely but organisations which represent those with hearing difficulties remain concerned.
Channel 5 has subtitling again while some recorded BBC programmes, unusually, have live subtitling – not ideal, of course, but better than nothing and proof the BBC cares about the service.
The risk for Channel 4 is that it may start to look as if they don’t care about subtitling. Of course, that is most certainly not the case but the risk of this perception developing amongst those who need the service must be taken seriously.
Again, a few explicit on-air acknowledgments or a caption in place of the missing subtitles might at least demonstrate the issue is of real concern and regret.
Channel 4 prides itself on inclusion – it is one of the channel’s strengths.
But if those with hearing loss are excluded for much longer, this commitment may start to seem hollow. And, yet again, remember this is a channel fighting against privatisation which needs all the friends it can get.