Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

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Fishnut
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Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Fishnut » Fri Oct 08, 2021 10:32 pm

Red Bee Media provide subtitles for the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and their digital services. They had an incident at their Broadcast Centre in London on 25 September which set off their fire suppression system and damaged equipment that is used to provide subtitles.
Sources said that smoke was detected at a Red Bee server centre in west London, activating a fire suppression system that sucked all the oxygen out of the room. However, the safety measure also triggered a “sonic wave” that shut down servers, according to those familiar with the matter. Firefighters were called and staff were evacuated from the building in White City.
More than two weeks later, many of these broadcasters are still without subtitles. The BBC is rumoured to be using AI-generated subtitles as a stopgap measure but Channels 4 and 5 have nothing. Subtitles are essential for Deaf people and those who are hard of hearing to follow programmes, and millions of other people use subtitles for a multitude of reasons. If the sound had been lost there would be a national outcry yet the only place I've seen any continued coverage of this story is in the Deaf press.

Red Bee have said they "are sorry for the disruption" but have not given any sort of timeframe for how long it will be before they've fixed the problems and started providing subtitles again. Ofcom have said the loss of subtitles is "unacceptable" but are just monitoring the situation.

It really shows just how little regard is actually given to accessibility, for all the talk. A single incident shouldn't be able to kill subtitles to multiple national broadcasters for weeks on end with no-one either willing or able to even give an estimate of how long it will be before the issue is fixed.

ETA: If anyone is d/Deaf and has been affected, or knows anyone, then journalist Hannah May would be interested in talking to you for an article she's writing on this situation.
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by JQH » Sat Oct 09, 2021 9:29 am

I must admit I was entirely unaware of this so thanks for posting.

And you're right - if sound was out for a couple of hours let alone weeks, there would be a national outcry.
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Aoui » Sat Oct 09, 2021 9:40 am

Wow. We haven't noticed it here. My husband is hard of hearing and he relies a lot on subtitles. I think some of the subtitles for the BBC are in Dutch, but not BBC1 and maybe not BBC2. I always assumed those channels subtitles were done by the BBC itself. When we switched cable providers we ended up with Hebrew subtitles on some BBC channels. My husband called up and was told that he didn't really need subtitles if he could call and use the phone so easily. Umm....NO!! He can set the sound from his phone to go directly into his hearing aides and that helps him a lot. His phone and hearing aides are very good, so doesn't always have to direct the sound directly to his hearing aides. There is a device he can use to hook the tv sound up to his hearing aides, but then I can't hear anything. Yeah..doesn't solve the problem. Plus he can have problems with accents or people not speaking clearly on tv shows.... No..he needs freaking subtitles! They eventually switched them to English...

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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Brightonian » Sat Oct 09, 2021 9:59 am

Aoui wrote:
Sat Oct 09, 2021 9:40 am
Wow. We haven't noticed it here. My husband is hard of hearing and he relies a lot on subtitles. I think some of the subtitles for the BBC are in Dutch, but not BBC1 and maybe not BBC2. I always assumed those channels subtitles were done by the BBC itself. When we switched cable providers we ended up with Hebrew subtitles on some BBC channels. My husband called up and was told that he didn't really need subtitles if he could call and use the phone so easily. Umm....NO!! He can set the sound from his phone to go directly into his hearing aides and that helps him a lot. His phone and hearing aides are very good, so doesn't always have to direct the sound directly to his hearing aides. There is a device he can use to hook the tv sound up to his hearing aides, but then I can't hear anything. Yeah..doesn't solve the problem. Plus he can have problems with accents or people not speaking clearly on tv shows.... No..he needs freaking subtitles! They eventually switched them to English...
Brief derail... can I ask what make and model of hearing aids he uses, and what the associated app is? My father uses hearing aids and even with them he struggles a bit (he doesn't have an app though, maybe that's what makes the difference).

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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Aoui » Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:27 am

Brightonian: Phonak Marvel. They are horribly expensive. We paid 4 1/2 Euros for them and they are worth every penny. Insurance paid for a disc microphone that cost a thousand euros that he can take to meetings. It has 6 microphones and he just plops the tiny little thing in the middle of the table and he catches everything. The disc goes directly into his ears. He can connect it to the tv, but then I don't get sound. He can set his phone to go directly into his ears too. At first he looked a bit strange when he walked down the street talking into thin air, but enough people have ear buds now that no one looks at him funny when he does that anymore. This pair of hearing aides have saved his life. His last pair were just good enough that he realized what he was missing but he thought he'd never be able to get any further. It was devastating and I was really worried about him. I mentioned something to a colleague and it turns out her husband has a private hearing aide place. My husband had always gone to chains and because of the way the system is set up here, they'd always talked him out of the good hearing aides. Plus, the seller really needs to know how to set them up well and take a lot of time with each person to set them correctly and then reset them often as their brain adjusts. When my husband got these, he came into the kitchen the next day...really excited because he could hear consonants for the first time in his life. I nearly fell over. I had no idea that he wasn't hearing most consonants! How he fooled people into not noticing how deaf he truly is I'll never know. He's got a 60% hearing loss. It's genetic. The thing is, a lot depends on a) what is wrong with your dad's hearing and b) how much money you are willing to spend. I can easily say that if we were not able to afford good hearing aides, we'd both be wiling to miss many meals to pay for good ones. It makes that much of a difference. Also....you have to be willing to go through adjustment times with new hearing aides. Since my husband has worn them since he was 11 or so, he is used to going through that. I see many older people immediately take them out and refuse to deal with them. Also...when he first got them he had to wait for the fitted earpiece to come in. The companies who make them can be pretty annoying and they are neither particularly fast nor do that always get things right the first time. It took several tries to get everything right. Even then....it takes over a year to get to the point where you aren't going back once every few months to rejig the sound... But it's truly changed my husbands life. He's happy and doing things he never dreamed he was capable of before. I am terrible at filtering out sound and his hearing aides are very good at it, so now he does better in crowded and loud places than I do. There are other brands, but what you really need is a place that really cares about what they are doing and willing to take the time to get what you really need and not just what's going to make them the most money or check off boxes. The place we go to is 45 minutes away when there is no traffic and we make that trek. The owner lives in town and does drop by sometimes. I could go on for hours about this subject, because it's made such a profound difference in his life. At the same time, we are looking into sign language classes because if he's this deaf at 45 then aging is just going to make it worse. We figure he should at least be able to understand and communicate a bit when he's older. Being hard of hearing is very isolating and he just doesn't want that again. PM me if you want more information...my husband might be willing to give you more information...

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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by purplehaze » Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:45 am

I have asked on twitter for Channel 4 to respond to this problem. No reply yet and your post is very helpful.

No answer yet.

I have poor hearing due to build up of ear wax. I will be getting a clean next month. The waiting list for this privately paid for treatment is horrendous. I was 'lucky' to get the slot next month, otherwise I would be waiting until next Jan.

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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by nezumi » Sat Oct 09, 2021 3:30 pm

purplehaze wrote:
Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:45 am
I have asked on twitter for Channel 4 to respond to this problem. No reply yet and your post is very helpful.

No answer yet.

I have poor hearing due to build up of ear wax. I will be getting a clean next month. The waiting list for this privately paid for treatment is horrendous. I was 'lucky' to get the slot next month, otherwise I would be waiting until next Jan.
There's a possibility you have an underlying infection there, my husband had the same problem until he bought caneston ear drops. Now he rarely gets blocked ears. It's only cheap so worth a try if you haven't already.
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Cardinal Fang » Sun Oct 10, 2021 3:01 pm

purplehaze wrote:
Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:45 am
I have poor hearing due to build up of ear wax. I will be getting a clean next month. The waiting list for this privately paid for treatment is horrendous. I was 'lucky' to get the slot next month, otherwise I would be waiting until next Jan.
If it's literally just ear wax needing removing, a lot of Specsavers branches offer it with very little waiting

Although TBH I found a week's worth of Otex then buy yourself a proper ear syringe does the same thing at a fraction of the cost. If you splosh your ears out once a week or so once you've cleaned them, you prevent the build up in the first place

CF
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Martin Y » Sun Oct 10, 2021 7:04 pm

It's a sign of the times that Ch4 and Ch5 services can fall off the air on a Saturday evening (and have lingering trouble for a couple of weeks) and most people aren't that bothered, but Facebook does it and the sky is falling.

BBC didn't fall off the air as it put quite a bit of effort into a resilient system which would fail over to a backup in Salford and it all worked as intended. Some very relieved people getting pats on the back.

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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by purplehaze » Mon Oct 11, 2021 8:24 am

Cardinal Fang wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 3:01 pm
purplehaze wrote:
Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:45 am
I have poor hearing due to build up of ear wax. I will be getting a clean next month. The waiting list for this privately paid for treatment is horrendous. I was 'lucky' to get the slot next month, otherwise I would be waiting until next Jan.
If it's literally just ear wax needing removing, a lot of Specsavers branches offer it with very little waiting

Although TBH I found a week's worth of Otex then buy yourself a proper ear syringe does the same thing at a fraction of the cost. If you splosh your ears out once a week or so once you've cleaned them, you prevent the build up in the first place

CF
I'm going to Specsavers.

I've been given a pre wax removal treatment regime. I've been having ear wax removal since I was 19. I have narrow ear canals as does all of my children and their dad!

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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Oct 11, 2021 12:49 pm

Martin Y wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 7:04 pm
It's a sign of the times that Ch4 and Ch5 services can fall off the air on a Saturday evening (and have lingering trouble for a couple of weeks) and most people aren't that bothered, but Facebook does it and the sky is falling.

BBC didn't fall off the air as it put quite a bit of effort into a resilient system which would fail over to a backup in Salford and it all worked as intended. Some very relieved people getting pats on the back.
It's nice to hear an example of "nothing happened because we invested in a usually-redundant backup", in this age of widespread failures of market-efficiency-driven JIT services falling over like skittles.
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Fishnut » Fri Oct 15, 2021 12:04 pm

Ofcom have just tweeted to say that they have been having meetings with C4 and C5 and that C5 have now restored subtitles to its live programming and is getting them put on their on-demand programming. C4, in contrast, will be making an announcement "shortly".

It's an incredibly underwhelming statement and seems to continue the poor communication around this problem.

Liam O'Dell, the Deaf reporter from whom I first learned of this story, appeared on the BBC yesterday explaining that the lack of communication from Red Bee Media, Channel 4 and Ofcom were exacerbating the problems. That there is still no timeline for restoration almost 4 weeks after the fire suppression system was activated is a damning indictment of how low down the list of priorities accessibility is for these organisations.
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Fishnut » Tue Oct 19, 2021 9:53 am

Channel 4 have finally made their announcement (4 days after saying it would be made "shortly") and have said it's likely going to be mid-November before everything is working properly again.
The reason is that when we activated our emergency back-up, the system that should have provided subtitles failed. Since then, our engineers have been working around the clock to find out what went wrong and how we can fix it.

Unfortunately, at the moment we cannot provide audio description or sign language services at all. These services were irretrievably lost during the incident and we won’t be able to restore them until we move to the new system we are building...

The damage caused by the incident has meant that we have had to build a completely new system. Not only will this enable our channels to move back out of disaster recovery, but it also means we will be able to provide subtitles, audio description and sign language services as well...

Something like this needs to be installed slowly to ensure our channels don’t come off air and to prevent something like this happening again. That means that full access services might not be available until the middle of November.
The BBC quote Mark Atkinson, chief executive at hearing loss charity RNID who said,
It's impossible to imagine a failure that affected the hearing community being allowed to go on for so long. The BBC and Channel 5 are now offering a near-normal service, but it is unacceptable that the system could have failed so spectacularly, and that Channel 4 have still not fixed the problem. Further, there was a failure across the board to communicate to deaf people regularly and - most importantly - accessibly.
Everyone I've seen commenting on this has complained about how badly C4 have handled this. The outage is bad enough but their lack of communication with viewers, and their vagueness when they eventually do, has been a textbook example of how not to handle situations like this.
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by hakwright » Tue Oct 19, 2021 12:28 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Tue Oct 19, 2021 9:53 am
Channel 4 have finally made their announcement (4 days after saying it would be made "shortly") and have said it's likely going to be mid-November before everything is working properly again.
The reason is that when we activated our emergency back-up, the system that should have provided subtitles failed. Since then, our engineers have been working around the clock to find out what went wrong and how we can fix it.

...
Looks like a classic case of "We had backup systems and processes, but they were never actually tested. We just hoped that they would work perfectly when we needed them".

Always a tad risky.

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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Troubled Joe » Tue Oct 19, 2021 12:33 pm

Cardinal Fang wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 3:01 pm
purplehaze wrote:
Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:45 am
I have poor hearing due to build up of ear wax. I will be getting a clean next month. The waiting list for this privately paid for treatment is horrendous. I was 'lucky' to get the slot next month, otherwise I would be waiting until next Jan.
If it's literally just ear wax needing removing, a lot of Specsavers branches offer it with very little waiting

Although TBH I found a week's worth of Otex then buy yourself a proper ear syringe does the same thing at a fraction of the cost. If you splosh your ears out once a week or so once you've cleaned them, you prevent the build up in the first place

CF
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by shpalman » Tue Oct 19, 2021 12:43 pm

Troubled Joe wrote:
Tue Oct 19, 2021 12:33 pm
Cardinal Fang wrote:
Sun Oct 10, 2021 3:01 pm
purplehaze wrote:
Sat Oct 09, 2021 10:45 am
I have poor hearing due to build up of ear wax. I will be getting a clean next month. The waiting list for this privately paid for treatment is horrendous. I was 'lucky' to get the slot next month, otherwise I would be waiting until next Jan.
If it's literally just ear wax needing removing, a lot of Specsavers branches offer it with very little waiting

Although TBH I found a week's worth of Otex then buy yourself a proper ear syringe does the same thing at a fraction of the cost. If you splosh your ears out once a week or so once you've cleaned them, you prevent the build up in the first place

CF
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No, 'andles for hopiearcs.
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Fishnut » Wed Oct 27, 2021 8:35 pm

Channel 4 announced a few days ago that they've restored their subtitles ahead of schedule. I didn't share the news as the tweet linked to in the article I saw had been deleted and I wanted to check that it wasn't a premature announcement. But the link to the announcement at C4 is still up so I'm not sure what happened there. They're still unavailable for Freesat viewers though, so it's still not a full restoration.
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Fishnut » Fri Oct 29, 2021 1:13 pm

Ofcom have written to the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) in regards to the loss of subtitles on Channel 4. The NDCS calls it a 'strong response'. Personally, I think it's a pretty poor response.

Ofcom say that,
We have also been clear with Channel 4 that we intend to expedite our usual access services reporting timescales so that if there are shortfalls in meeting annual quotas, any appropriate enforcement activity can take place as soon as possible in 2022.
I don't know what their quota is but if it means that they can lose service across all platforms for almost 4 weeks and have only partial services for even longer and still meet their quota then I would suggest their quota is too low.

If sound or picture had been lost so completely for so long you can rest assured ofcom would have come out with fines and sternly worded press statements. Though let's be honest, we know that sound and picture would never have been lost for so long because no broadcaster (expect maybe GB News) would be useless enough to allow something like that to happen. What this incident, and the response from the broadcasters and their regulator shows, is that providing accessible broadcasting is of little concern to them. They talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. If they really cared they would have had systems in place to prevent such an egregious outage from happening. But they don't. And ofcom don't because if they did they wouldn't be waiting to see if C4 meets it's quota - it'd be very publicly fining them already.
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by purplehaze » Mon Nov 01, 2021 11:57 am

It's back! I can now watch C4 programmes in peace, i.e. without cursing.

Edit to add I watch free.

On another point I signed up to pay for six months view of Now TV on entertainment only, the Entertainment channel doesn't have subtitles. Waste of money.

I will complain.

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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by plebian » Wed Nov 03, 2021 9:15 am

JQH wrote:
Sat Oct 09, 2021 9:29 am
I must admit I was entirely unaware of this so thanks for posting.

And you're right - if sound was out for a couple of hours let alone weeks, there would be a national outcry.
Though whether you'd hear it even then...
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by purplehaze » Wed Nov 03, 2021 3:19 pm

Loving watching Rosie Ayling-Ellis on Strictly and I certainly have picked up a bit of sign language.

Also this is so fantastic I had to share.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-58972808

The 17-year-old making films fun for deaf children.

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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Fishnut » Mon Nov 15, 2021 10:52 am

These are interesting survey results:
Young people are almost four times more likely than older viewers to watch TV shows with subtitles, despite having fewer hearing problems, according to research by a captioning charity.
I always have subtitles on, even though I rarely watch the TV without also doing stuff on my laptop. Yet my mum (mid 60s) hates having subtitles on. Instead she and her partner have the volume up to ear-splitting levels.

I've noticed that The Good Fight on Channel 4 hasn't had subtitles so far this series and it's made me realise just how much I rely on them despite not having hearing problems. I don't understand why the subtitles are missing when C4 said they were back but even the most recent episode was without them. I don't watch anything else on C4 currently so I don't know if it's just a glitch with this show or a sign that they haven't actually properly fixed the subtitling problems.
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Woodchopper » Mon Nov 15, 2021 11:08 am

Fishnut wrote:
Mon Nov 15, 2021 10:52 am
These are interesting survey results:
Young people are almost four times more likely than older viewers to watch TV shows with subtitles, despite having fewer hearing problems, according to research by a captioning charity.
I always have subtitles on, even though I rarely watch the TV without also doing stuff on my laptop. Yet my mum (mid 60s) hates having subtitles on. Instead she and her partner have the volume up to ear-splitting levels.
I suspect that younger people are much better at mental multitasking. Though perhaps with the tradeoff that they find it harder to focus upon one thing for a long time.
Fishnut wrote:
Mon Nov 15, 2021 10:52 am
I've noticed that The Good Fight on Channel 4 hasn't had subtitles so far this series and it's made me realise just how much I rely on them despite not having hearing problems. I don't understand why the subtitles are missing when C4 said they were back but even the most recent episode was without them. I don't watch anything else on C4 currently so I don't know if it's just a glitch with this show or a sign that they haven't actually properly fixed the subtitling problems.
As far as I know the broadcasters are required to subtitle a certain percentage of programming rather than all of it.

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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Fishnut » Mon Nov 15, 2021 11:11 am

Woodchopper wrote:
Mon Nov 15, 2021 11:08 am
As far as I know the broadcasters are required to subtitle a certain percentage of programming rather than all of it.
They've subtitled all the previous seasons so I don't know why they'd suddenly stop now.
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Re: Major broadcasters lose subtitles for weeks, and no-one seems to care

Post by Fishnut » Fri Dec 10, 2021 8:01 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Mon Nov 15, 2021 10:52 am
I've noticed that The Good Fight on Channel 4 hasn't had subtitles so far this series and it's made me realise just how much I rely on them despite not having hearing problems. I don't understand why the subtitles are missing when C4 said they were back but even the most recent episode was without them. I don't watch anything else on C4 currently so I don't know if it's just a glitch with this show or a sign that they haven't actually properly fixed the subtitling problems.
Not a glitch, it's all part of the on-going problem that C4 are facing with their subtitles. In other words, they have failed to fix the problem over two months after it began and long after both the BBC and C5 have been able to fix their subtitles. Liam O'Dell has a piece in the Guardian where he notes that the ongoing issues, combined with the short length of time that many US shows stay on All4, means that episode one of The Good Fight has gone before deaf and disabled users were able to watch it. A spokesperson for C4 said that the backlog won't be rectified until "the second week of December". It does look like they have finally got subtitles on all the available episodes (I haven't checked them all but the most recent and the oldest both do so I'm assuming the ones in between do too) but good god it took a long time.

More importantly, O'Dell writes about a petition the government rejected to provide BSL interpreters for government coronavirus briefings. O'Dell points out this is,
forcing deaf people to receive public health information from unofficial channels or via word of mouth.
The reason the government rejected the petition:
The Government has assessed that in accordance with PHE guidelines, we cannot safely include a BSL interpreter in the room for daily briefings without potentially putting them and others at risk.
The same government that had no problem holding parties when the rest of the country was prevented from doing so says that putting an interpreter in a briefing room is too dangerous. They claim that,
At Downing Street the Government is working within the constraints of a historical site with limited space.
Which seems to suggest that Downing Street probably isn't a suitable venue to be doing such important briefings. Turn it over to English Heritage and get the PM in a proper office ffs.
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