On 1 October 2012, Ofcom, the communications regulator in the UK, published a statement on new requirements for TV channels licensed by Ofcom and made available in other Member States of the European Union to provide access services such as subtitling, signing and audio description.
The new requirements will benefit viewers with sensory impairments in those countries. Ofcom expects to publish a final list of channels that meet the requisite audience share thresholds and affordability tests by the end of 2012, and these will be required to provide access services from 1 January 2014.
Ofcom also intends to seek views during 2013 from relevant disability organisations and broadcasters on how best to meet the needs of sign language users following the transitional period. Ofcom plans to collect data in early 2014 on actual costs incurred by broadcasters, to be used in determining which channels that meet the relevant audience share threshold are deemed able to afford to provide access services from 2015.
Ofcom's Statement is the outcome of a consultation, launched on 23 May 2012, on the provision of access services (subtitling, signing and audio description) on channels licensed by Ofcom that are available in Member States of the European Union other than the United Kingdom. Contributions to the consultation, together with Ofcom's responses to them are summarised in section 2 of the statement.