08 April, 2016
Television Access Services: Ofcom's final report for 2015
Under the Communications Act 2003, television broadcasters are required to deliver a certain proportion of their programmes with subtitles, signing and audio description to ensure those with hearing and visual impairments can understand and enjoy television programmes.
Ofcom has a duty to ensure that compliance of these requirements is met and consequently reports on this twice a year. The first bi-annual report for 2015 on the provision of access services, published in October 2015, presented the cumulative position from January to June 2015. This final report for 2015 on the provision of television access services by broadcasters, published on 7 April 2016, shows the cumulative position from January to December 2015.
Ofcom’s Code on Television Access Services sets out the criteria for determining which channels should provide access services, and what targets they should meet.
Channels are selected on the basis of the benefits they would deliver to the audience, subject to being able to afford to provide access services. For those purposes, domestic channels with an audience share (all UK households, all times) of 0.05% are required to provide access services, unless there are technical reasons why this would not be practicable, and subject to their ability to afford the assessed cost by paying up to 1% of their relevant turnover.
Television Access Services 2015 – Domestic Channels: A number of broadcasters continue to meet a voluntary commitment of delivering 20% audio description on all or most of their channels, even though the statutory obligation is only to deliver 10% (or less in the case of channels that are less than five years old). These include the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. Channels with an audience share between 0.05% and 1% have the option either to broadcast 30 minutes of sign-presented programming each month or to participate in Ofcom-approved alternative arrangements that contribute to the availability of sign-presented programming. Where ‘Alt’ (alternative arrangement) is shown against a channel, this indicates that the broadcaster is contributing to the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSLBT), which commissions sign-presented programming which is broadcast on the Community Channel and Film 4. In conclusion, all domestic channels required to provide access services in 2015 met or exceeded their targets and the majority did so comfortably.
Television Access Services 2015 – Non-domestic Channels: 2015 was the second year that certain non-domestic channels licensed by Ofcom have been required to provide access services. All but one of these broadcasters (Travel Channel broadcasting to Poland) met or exceeded their requirement. In lieu of the signing arrangements set out in the Code, all non-domestic broadcasters required to provide access services provided an additional 5% of content with subtitles. Eight non-domestic channels (TV3 and TV3 Puls in Denmark; TV3, TV6 and TV8 in Sweden; and AXN Black, AXN White and AXN in Poland) which had underprovided or failed to provide subtitling or audio description in 2014 were required to make up these shortfalls in 2015. In each case, these shortfalls have now been remedied. Two other channels (AXN and AXN Sci-fi in Italy) were required to fully make up shortfalls in their 2014 subtitling provision by 30 June 2016, with a third of this underprovision made up by the end of 2015.
Source: Ofcom website