Provision of Sign Language Interpretation for News Programmes by TVB


To meet demand for easier access to information by persons with hearing impairment, the Communications Authority ("CA") announced today (3 October 2017) that it has, pursuant to the relevant condition of the domestic free television programme service ("free TV") licence of Television Broadcasts Limited ("TVB"), issued a direction requiring TVB to provide sign language interpretation for Cantonese news programmes broadcast on its Pearl Channel each day ("sign language requirement") with effect from 3 July 2018.

By way of background, in the context of the licence renewal exercise of TVB, the CA took note of the increasing demand from persons with hearing impairment for the provision of sign language interpretation for news programmes.  Taking into account the representations TVB made at that time1 in response to such demand, the CA considered it prudent to conduct a review, to be completed within two years from the commencement of TVB's renewed licence as from 1 December 2015, to explore measures to resolve the implementation and compliance issues in relation to the provision of sign language interpretation for news programmes before actual implementation.  Taking into account the need to conduct the review and the timeline before actual implementation of the new arrangements, the Chief Executive in Council accepted the CA's recommendation and included an enabling provision in TVB's renewed licence to require it to provide sign language for its free TV service as directed by the CA. 

Upon renewal of the free TV licence of TVB, the CA set up a Working Group comprising representatives of groups for the hearing impaired and relevant government bureaux to examine the relevant issues, including the format, presentation, scheduling and duration of news programmes with sign language interpretation, the supply of qualified sign language interpreters, and the compliance with the accuracy requirement for news programmes, etc.  TVB and other free TV licensees have been consulted on the proposals formulated by the Working Group.        

During the consultation, TVB proposed to provide sign language interpretation and traditional Chinese subtitles for news programmes in Cantonese on its integrated English channel (viz. the Pearl channel) instead of its integrated Chinese channel (viz. the Jade channel).  Noting that the coverage and penetration of the Pearl channel was the same as that of the Jade channel and that this arrangement could cater for the need of the hearing-impaired in Hong Kong, the Working Group considered that TVB's proposal was acceptable.

The CA, having regard to the representations of free TV licensees including those of TVB and the Working Group's recommendations, issued a direction to TVB today, requiring TVB to implement the sign language requirement, as follows -

  1. TVB shall provide on its integrated English channel (viz. the Pearl Channel) sign language interpretation and traditional Chinese subtitles for a comprehensive news programme in Cantonese of not less than 15 minutes each day between 6:00 p.m. and 12:00 midnight (the "News Programme");
  2. for segments in the News Programme with text shown, or under the circumstances where the provision of signing service is not feasible due to technical constraints2, provision of sign language interpretation is not required;
  3. for the presentation of sign language interpretation in the News Programme, the sign language interpretation should be discernible and clearly seen by the viewing public.

The CA further decided that the sign language interpretation provided in the News Programmes, same as any other factual content, should be subject to the accuracy requirement for news programmes in the Generic Code of Practice on Television Programme Standards ("Programme Code").  Pursuant to the relevant provision of the Programme Code, TVB, as a free TV licensee, should make reasonable efforts to ensure that the factual contents of news programmes are accurate.  To facilitate the implementation of the sign language requirement, the CA has advised TVB of the factors it would take into account in determining whether TVB has made reasonable efforts to comply with the accuracy requirement.  Any complaints about the accuracy of sign language interpretation presented in the News Programmes would be handled according to the established complaint handling procedures.

Taking into account the fact that the provision of sign language interpretation for news programmes is a new requirement for TVB, the CA decided to give a lead time of nine months (i.e. by 3 July 2018) for TVB to make preparations and to resolve the implementation issues to ensure that the new requirement would be rolled out smoothly for the benefit of the hearing impaired.

Communications Authority
Secretariat

3 October 2017

Notes:

 (1)

TVB expressed concern over the limited supply of qualified sign language interpreters in Hong Kong and the compliance with the requirement on factual accuracy of news programmes as stipulated in the Generic Code of Practice on Television Programme Standards promulgated by the CA with respect to the implementation of the sign language requirement.

 (2)

Similar exemptions are applicable for the provision of subtitling under the circumstances where the provision of subtitling service is not practical due to technical constraints.

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