Viewers reliant on access services including subtitling and audio description grow increasingly frustrated at lack of progress since incident at Red Bee Media last month.
Channel 4 and Channel 5, plus their ‘family’ of channels were initially knocked off air on Saturday 25th September when fire suppression systems knocked out servers at Red Bee Media in White City, West London. While most, but not all services have been restored, subtitles and audio description remain impacted. Sources confirm that server files containing subtitles data were destroyed. As a result, where broadcasters have sufficient back-up capacity, less accurate live subtitling is being used.
Following numerous complaints from affected viewers, regulator Ofcom has confirmed it is monitoring the situation to make sure broadcasters restore services as quickly as possible.
Red Bee Media has so far been reluctant to explain more about the incident that occurred and how long it will take to return to normal; it faces substantial compensation claims from broadcasters. Affected broadcasters have declined to issue additional information, beyond set responses apologising for the issues.
Live subtitling involves speech recognition software supported by an individual making live edits to the output. These are more prone to gaffes and usually only deployed when programmes are shown live or with a short delay. Most recorded programmes have subtitle files available. Subtitles are then played out alongside the relevant programme.
In addition to affecting Channel 4 and Channel 5, the BBC has had to resort to live subtitling, as its subtitle files were knocked out by the incident.
At the time of publication, both Channel 4 and Channel 5 services remain in disaster recovery mode. 4Music continues to relay The Box due to insufficient back-up capacity to restore all services at this time.