Cyprus television stations are failing to ensure that disabled persons receive equal access to their audiovisual services, despite being required to do so by law.
According to a report submitted by the Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights, Maria Stylianou-Lottides, two complaints were filed by persons with hearing disabilities, who reported that they were excluded from equal access to television programmes, which often fail to include subtitles.
As a result, the complainants held, several of their rights are being violated or inhibited, included their right to information, entertainment, and participation in social, political, and cultural life, degrading their quality of life and offending their human dignity.
According to a law passed in 2010, TV broadcasters are required to gradually increase the percentage of their fully-accessible programmes to 5 per cent, excluding main news programmes, through sign language provisions, subtitles, spoken subtitles, and audio description.
The obligation to guarantee citizens' access to audiovisual media also derives from a combination of a number of provisions contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which consider access to audiovisual media essential to the realisation of the rights of persons with disabilities, including their right to independent living and equal participation in political, social, economic and cultural life.
The broadcasters claim that they've lagged behind on their obligations due to high costs
According to the Cyprus Broadcasting Authority (CBA) the body responsible for the monitoring of TV broadcasters’ compliance with the European legal framework, the broadcasters claim that they have lagged behind on their obligations due to the high costs, and often cite the financial crisis of previous years.
However, the CBA claims, when it asked the TV broadcasters to provide specific data demonstrating the expected cost of subtitling the main news programme and popular series, it did not receive clear information.
After receiving legal counsel, the CBA decided in June last year to carry out an investigation into the possible violations of the legal framework in place. Though the investigation is ongoing, it said that should a TV broadcaster be found in violation of the law, administrative sanctions will be imposed.
The Commissioner stressed that it is reprehensible that television broadcasters have not complied with their legal obligation, which came into force in 2010, and which broadcasters had one year to implement.
On this basis, the Commissioner added that the CBA’s investigation on possible infringements should also take into account the decade of inaction on behalf of the broadcasters.