Access Services: What Role for the Regulator?

posted on 10 July, 2013   (public)

On the occasion of the 37th EPRA meeting, which took place on 8-10 May 2013 in Kraków in Poland, a working group gathered representatives from over 25 regulatory authorities in Europe for a round table discussion on Access to Audiovisual Media Services for persons with disabilities.

Keynote speaker Mia Ahlgren, representing the European Disability Forum, an umbrella organisation for European Disability NGOs and a network on ICT accessibility, presented the recent activities of EDF (inter alia the campaigns on Freedom of movement and web accessibility) and the issues at stake.

Her presentation was followed by a lively and fruitful exchange with the participants of the round table which focused on the quality of subtitles, the issue of costs in times of economic crisis, and on the role of access services for democracy and societal participation. Participants agreed on the importance of a holistic, multi-stakeholder approach to accessibility.

A comparative document on Access to Audiovisual Media Services compiling answers from 31 regulatory authorities in Europe provided background information for the working group. The paper presents an overview on the general legal framework and broadcasters’ obligations with regard to subtitling, signing and audio description for linear and on-demand audiovisual media services, on measures concerning the accessibility of end-user TV equipment, on the role played by broadcasting regulators in accessibility policies, and on issues of costs.

  • As a direct result of the implementation of Article 7 of the Audiovisual Media Service (AVMS) Directive, the recognition of the need for accessible television services by national legal frameworks has made considerable progress. Recent changes to the legal and regulatory framework are reported in Belgium, Finland, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Slovakia and the UK, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Norway. Further developments are currently under way.
  • But mind the gap between rhetoric and reality: the scope and implementation in practice of the provisions by Member States vary considerably.
  • In the vast majority of countries covered, there are no accessibility obligations imposed on on-demand audiovisual media services. Accessibility provisions also rarely apply to local broadcasters. The accessibility of live events remains a challenge in many jurisdictions.
  • NRAs play an increasing role in the field of accessibility. The most widespread roles played by regulators are monitoring and enforcing compliance with broadcasters’ obligations. Many NRAs are involved in awareness campaigns and have implemented systems of periodic consultation of service providers and representatives of disabled end-users.

Source: EPRA Secretariat