HC Deb 28 January 2004 vol 417 cc409-10W
Mr. Boswell

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will make a statement on progress in developing access to digital television for users with(a) sensory disabilities and (b) other special needs. [151116]

Estelle Morris

The Communications Act 2003 introduced a number of provisions aimed at increasing access to digital television services. These include extending the targets for subtitling, audio description and signing of services to digital cable and satellite broadcasters for the first time. Ofcom also has a duty to encourage the availability of easily usable domestic electronic communications apparatus.

The Digital Television Action Plan includes actions to ensure that digital television equipment and services are accessible to the broadest range of people.

The Action Plan's Technical Equipment Group (comprising manufacturers, broadcasters, software/applications providers and consumer groups) has been tasked to investigate the reception equipment requirements for users with sensory disabilities and to recommend actions to help promote usability and inclusive design for all.

Two recent reports have indicated that some advances have been made in access to services for sensory impaired people, but action is needed to promote their further development and that current designs make digital television equipment more difficult to use than analogue.

Clearly there are still challenges ahead and we are looking closely at the findings; and recommendations of the reports. We will continue to work within the Action Plan, with industry and consumer organisations to address these issues.

The reports are available on: www.digitaltelevision.gov.uk