1. This Code sets out the practices to be followed by EPG providers:
2. Section 310(2) requires that Ofcom’s EPG code oblige EPG providers to give the degree of prominence that Ofcom considers appropriate to the listing and promotion of public service channels, for members of the intended audience. The Secretary of State may add to, or subtract from, the list of relevant public service broadcasting (PSBs) channels, which comprises the digital versions of BBC services, as well as the digital services of Channels 3, 4 and 5, Teletext and S4C Digital. The Code is also to ensure that members of the intended audience for services provided for a particular area or locality are able use the EPG to select the programmes included in that service.
3. Ofcom considers that ‘appropriate prominence’ permits a measure of discrimination in favour of PSB channels. However, it does not propose to be prescriptive about what appropriate prominence means, as there are many possible ways in which EPGs could display information about programmes included in PSB services. Accordingly, EPG providers are required to comply with the following general principles:
4. These principles would have broad application. For example, they would justify a decision by an EPG operator using a menu-based approach to position public service channels no more than ‘one click’ from the home page. They might also justify giving public service channels first refusal on vacant listings higher in the category that they were placed.
5. Section 310(3) requires that Ofcom’s EPG code obliges EPG providers to incorporate such features in their EPGs as are appropriate to enable, so far as practicable, people with disabilities affecting their sight or hearing to use the EPGs for the same purposes as people without such disabilities. EPGs are also to provide information about assistance in relation to programmes (e.g. how to navigate radio and television listings, and how to operate television access services such as subtitling, signing and audio description), as well as facilities for making use of that assistance. This section sets out the requirements that EPG providers should meet in order to comply with the Code.
6. EPG providers are required to:
7. Ofcom expects EPG providers to consult disability groups about they way they meet their obligations under the code, which are set out below.
8. At present, there is limited scope to reconfigure EPGs so as to facilitate their use by people with disabilities affecting their sight or hearing. In particular, much of the functionality of EPGs is dependent upon set top box hardware and software, as well as the data made available by broadcasters. However, Ofcom expects the needs of people with disabilities affecting their sight or hearing to be an integral part of planning for the future development of EPGs. To this end, Ofcom expects EPG providers to work with disability groups, broadcasters and set top box manufacturers on ways of improving usability.
9. EPG providers are required to produce by 30 November 2004 , and thereafter annually a statement of the steps they have taken and plan to take to facilitate the use of their EPGs by disabled people. Ofcom will assess the adequacy of these statements in the light of the particular circumstances of each EPG.
10. EPG providers will need to have regard to their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to make reasonable adjustments in the provision of facilities and the delivery of services so as to make these accessible to disabled people, and should seek their own advice on this.
11. EPG providers will be required to ensure that information included in relation to television programmes indicates which programmes are accompanied by television access services. A corresponding provision has been included in the Code on Television Access Services requiring broadcasters to make such information available to EPG providers. Where practicable, programme information in the EPG should indicate by means of standard abbreviations the nature of the access service provided. Where applicable, the programme synopsis in the EPG should indicate which programmes are accompanied by television access services, using the following upper-case letters - subtitling (S), signing (SL) and audio description (AD). Where practicable, these abbreviations should be explained in an appropriate part of the EPG. If non-standard terms are used in any part of the EPG, and removal or replacement by the standard abbreviations would require software or hardware updates, this should be done at the next reasonable opportunity.
12. EPG providers should provide on an easily accessible part of their EPGs (where practicable) or alternatively in other accessible ways (e.g. on websites or interactive services) information for people with disabilities on:
13. EPG providers are required to work with broadcasters, platform providers and disability groups to publicise the information and facilities available on EPGs to assist disabled people. This should include information targeted at publications used by disabled people, and periodic publicity featured prominently on EPGs.
14. Ofcom has concluded that, in order to secure that the providers of EPGs licensed by Ofcom do not enter into or maintain any arrangements or engage in any practice that Ofcom considers would be prejudicial to fair and effective competition in the provision of the licensed radio or television services or of connected services as defined in section 316 of the Act, EPG providers should comply with the provisions set out in this section.
15. In particular, EPG licensees are required:
16. EPG licensees that are channel providers or are connected to a channel provider must ensure that access to and from all television services included in the EPG service is easily available to all viewers equipped to use the EPG service and to receive the relevant programme services.
17. Ofcom intends to review the Code at intervals of no more than two years, or more frequently if circumstances warrant it. As part of the review, it will consult stakeholders, including EPG providers, broadcasters, and disability groups. The issues it will consider may include whether:
18. Where appropriate, Ofcom will consider whether competition would facilitate the achievements of the objectives in the code, and so obviate or reduce the need for regulation, or whether the promotion of competition requires continuing regulation.
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