New campaign launched to get broadcasters to commit to using BSL in all political debates

Thu,6 June 2024
News Equality & Rights Participation
As the election continues to dominate the news and the media, a new campaign has been launched to ask broadcasters to commit to have British Sign Language (BSL) on all election debates.

Earlier this week, ITV broadcast the first of the televised election debates with the PM Rishi Sunak going head-to-head with leader of the opposition Keir Starmer, however Deaf and Disabled organisations across the country were left infuriated as there was no BSL interpreter involved to convey what was being said.

In response, a new campaign called “Don't be Silenced: #NoBSLNoVote” has been launched to demand broadcasters commit to have BSL on all election debates onwards. The goal of the campaign is to encourage all political parties to provide BSL interpretations for TV appearances, rallies, conferences, and their manifestos. The campaign is a call to action for political inclusivity and accessibility.

The campaign has been set up Chris Fry who is a prominent disability rights campaigner and lawyer. Chris has made many significant contributions to advancing disability rights and his work has made him one of the most influential Disabled people in the country.

Launching the campaign Chris said: “It is crucial that the information which parties provide in set piece speeches to the nation are accessible to Deaf people both in meeting equality obligations, but also in recognition of the fact that without such interpretation Deaf people whose first language is BSL will be unable to access this critical information.”

“At such a time of national importance it is important that everyone can make an informed decision at the General Election.”

Since the campaign was launched and a letter co-signed by Disabled and Deaf organisations sent to all major political parties, ITV has agreed to add a British Sign Language version of their election debate programme to its on-demand platform, and the BBC have announced that it would include live British Sign Language and subtitles on its leader debates, announcing its aim "to make this election the most accessible to date".

Dan White, policy and campaigns officer at Disability Rights UK said: “The communications act of 2023 said at least 5% of broadcasters' content must be translated into sign language, with most content including subtitles. 5% really isn’t good enough, considering the number of Deaf people in the UK, all of whom have a right to follow what is happening politically.”

“This campaign is essential, but it is also concerning that it had to be created when broadcasters should, after decades of promising inclusive TV, be on the ball with this stuff from the off.”

“Plaudits must go to Christopher Fry and his team on this, we must constantly be pushing politicians and programmers to be inclusive of everyone. Next steps should be manifestos in BSL and better representation of the Disabled community in all political debates.”

Visit the No BSL No Vote website for more information.


Politics MUST be inclusive in all aspects. Read about representation and voice in our Disabled peoples manifesto.