Epilepsy Action writes to Secretary of State over photosensitivity concerns

Published: November 25 2022
Last updated: May 10 2023

Epilepsy Action has written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Michelle Donelan, to ask for stricter rules for broadcasting content that may be a potential trigger for people with photosensitive epilepsy.

The current regulations and guidelines set out by Ofcom are often ineffective as they fail to guarantee trigger-free content being shown on television and at cinemas.

Triggers for photosensitive epilepsy include flashing or flickering images, patterns, screens, and sunlight. This can mean that enjoying the simplest things for people with photosensitive epilepsy can be very challenging.

The current lack of concrete rules means people with photosensitive epilepsy tell us that they sometimes take extra precautions, like sitting close to the exit in the cinemas to leave the room when flashing images appear on screen, or covering their eyes during an advert with patterns. However, the power to prevent specific content from being shown lies with the government.

Even just one seizure can have a huge impact on somebody with epilepsy’s life, affecting their eligibility for a driving licence, causing potential injuries and affecting their ability to work.

For this reason, it is essential that the Secretary of State and the government develop regulations which can effectively prevent the broadcasting of potential harmful images.

At the moment, the decision to warn the audience on triggering content in films is given to film makers and distributors. But there are examples where such warnings have not been included when they should have been, such as the film Incredibles 2, and the video game Cyberpunk 2077.

Having an independent body that analyses harmful images and implements a warning when necessary would guarantee the wellbeing of people with photosensitive epilepsy.

Epilepsy Action believes that improvements such as stricter rules for broadcasters could also deliver a better understanding of epilepsy and its implications, making people aware of the nature of this condition and how to improve the life of those affected by it.

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