The BBC has today defended an edict telling news presenters to read out telephone numbers and internet addresses for blind people after it was criticised as "political correctness gone mad".
Peter Horrocks, the head of the BBC's newsroom, emailed presenters, including Huw Edwards, Fiona Bruce and Kate Silverton, earlier this week telling them to in future read out numbers and addresses that flash up on screen instead of simply saying "as you can see" so that blind people were included.
Horrocks defended the move, saying the BBC had to serve all of its audiences. "I asked them [BBC news presenters] if they would please spell out URLs, email addresses and phone numbers, pointing out that a significant number of blind people use television news," he wrote on the BBC News editors's blog today.
"The phrase 'as you can see' excludes people with visual impairments, and means they can't get the information they might want. This is discourteous, and we can do better than that."
Horrocks said 11 million adults were considered to have a disability in the UK, with the group making up 21% of the audience to the BBC1 6pm news bulletin.
"Surely it's not political correctness to consider whether the content we're producing is suitably accessible and understandable? The BBC has a commitment to help people with disabilities use our services," he added.
A senior BBC insider quoted in the London Evening Standard described the move as "political correctness gone mad", adding: "Where does it end? Does that mean presenters will be banned from saying: 'If you don't want to know the football scores look away from the screen now', because that could be just as offensive. It's insanity."
Gaurdian.co.uk, 20th February 2009