Channel 4 has confirmed that a back-up system meant to provide subtitling and audio description failed at the same time its channels were knocked off air.
The back-up system is being used to maintain a limited service to viewers and advertisers. Channel 4’s main playout and distribution centre at Red Bee Media in White City, London was taken off air on 25th September.
As a result, most processes are now being handled manually. But files containing subtitles and audio description were also lost in the incident.
The lack of subtitles was highlighted in last Friday’s edition of The Last Leg. Channel 4 remains the only affected broadcaster unable to switch to (less accurate) live subtitling.
In a statement issued over the weekend, Channel 4 said:
When we transferred to our emergency back-up, the system that was meant to provide access services, also failed.
Our engineers have been working around the clock to fix the problem. It is a priority for Channel 4. However, it is a complex process and will take some time.
However, when access services are fully restored, Channel 4 will make sure that all the programmes that you have missed will be available to watch with subtitles, audio description and sign language support.
At the present time, on-demand programmes are also lacking subtitles and audio description.
Normally, automated systems upload copies of programme files to All4 for viewers to watch. Copies are also normally delivered to Sky and Virgin Media for their specialised versions of All4.
Due to the incident, Channel 4 has resorted to uploading recordings of programmes to All4. They are formatted as they were broadcast on its linear channels, complete with regular ad-breaks. Like an old-fashioned video recording, the ads can be fast-forwarded (skipped).
In the future, Channel 4 expects to re-upload programmes with the necessary subtitling and audio description options, plus the ability to skip adverts for viewers with a subscription.