Ofcom has found Channel 4 fell short of its subtitle quota on Freesat in 2021 following an incident at its broadcast centre that took a number of channels off air.
Subtitling, signing and audio description services were disrupted last September after a fire suppression system was triggered at Red Bee Media, the company responsible for the playout for many of the UK’s public broadcasters, and their digital channels.
The release caused a loud shockwave that damaged many of the servers beyond repair and required disaster recovery procedures to be activated.
The regulator’s investigation found Freesat audiences who rely on subtitles were unable to fully access Channel 4 programmes for nearly two months.
Access services on the free-to-air platform were on a separate system to that used by other platforms such as Freeview and Sky.
The prolonged outage meant Channel 4 fell short of its annual quota to subtitle 90% of programmes on Freesat – achieving only 85.41% – in breach of its licence conditions.
Ofcom also found that Channel 4 breached another condition of its licence by failing to effectively communicate with audiences about the availability of access services in the weeks following the incident.
It says there is an urgent need for all broadcasters to improve and audit their disaster recovery plans. A review of its technical codes will be made later this year.
In a statement the broadcaster said: “Channel 4 is very disappointed with Ofcom’s decision and will review its findings carefully. We would like to apologise once again to our audiences for the disruption to our access services following the catastrophic incident last September and since then we have implemented a number of new systems and processes to avoid a serious incident in the future.”