This report sets out the extent to which broadcast television channels and on-demand programme services (“ODPS”) carried subtitles, audio description and/or signing (collectively, “access services”) in the first half of 2019.
The report allows consumers to compare the extent to which traditional broadcast television and catch-up or on-demand services are accessible to people with sight and/or hearing impairments.
The statutory rules for broadcast services are different to those for on-demand services. Under the Communications Act 2003, broadcast television channels are required to make a certain proportion of their programmes accessible; the Code on Television Access Services sets out these obligations.
For on-demand (including catch-up) services, there has been no legal requirement to provide access services. However, the Digital Economy Act 2017 paves the way for such requirements. In December 2018 we gave our recommendations to Government on regulations to improve the accessibility of ODPS, and are currently supporting Government’s drafting of regulations.
During the first half of 2019, all channels were on course to meet or exceed their full year requirements for the year.
Domestic channels with an audience share of between 0.05% and 1% have the option either to broadcast 45 minutes of sign-presented programming each month or to participate in Ofcom-approved alternative arrangements which contribute to the availability of sign-presented programming. Where "Alt" is shown in the report, this indicates that the broadcaster contributed to the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSLBT), which commissions sign-presented programming and is broadcast on the channels Film4 and Together.
Ofcom regulates a wide range of ODPS, including public service broadcasters’ catch-up services, subscription film services and local TV archives. We require ODPS providers to submit twice-yearly data on the extent to which they make their services accessible to people with sight and/or hearing impairments. However, the number of providers who respond can vary. This can make it difficult to compare data with previous years and so we have not made specific comparison here with 2018 figures.
The proportion of providers offering access services was however broadly in line with last year. 56.6% of ODPS providers offered subtitles on at least one of their services in the first half of 2019. Only 18.7% of providers offered audio description and 14.7% offered signing.
Accessibility continues to vary greatly depending on the platform used to view the on-demand service. 31% of on-demand services available in the UK provided subtitles on their own websites, and 33% provided subtitles on set-top boxes (e.g. FreeView, Sky Q) and streaming sticks (e.g. Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast). 26% of on-demand services provided subtitles on mobile apps, 14% provided subtitles on connected TVs, and 5% provided subtitles on games consoles. Again, these figures are broadly similar to last year.
We have again looked particularly at the provision of subtitles on popular viewing platforms, and found a limited number of the ODPS available on these platform offer subtitles (although there appears to have been a slight increase in numbers since last year).. In the first half of 2019, nine ODPS were available with subtitles on Sky, nine on Virgin, and four on Freeview Play.
Across those ODPS for which we were given data and that do offer access services, on the platforms where these access services are supported, 46.6% of programming was subtitled, 10.8% was audio described and 1.6% was signed.
Figure 1 below gives more detail on audio described content, for ease of use with screen readers. Please see the interactive report for further information on the provision of all access services.
Figure 1: Proportion of programme hours available with audio description from January to July 2019
|July to December 2018||January to July 2019|
25.0% (website and app)
|25.0% (website and app)|
26.5% (Android app)
27.2% (iOS app and Apple TV)
27.3% (Android App)
0.5% (Samsung TV)
1.19% (website and Samsung TV)
0.4% (BT TV and YouView)
|0.5% (BT TV and YouView)|
CBS Reality Drama Action Horror Channel
11.1% (Virgin TV)
|4.5% (Virgin TV)|
20.3% (Android app)
31.1% (Android App)
3.0% (iOS App)
8.6% (website and app)
9.2% (Apple TV)
8.0% (Amazon Fire)
8.1% (Apple TV)
8.0% (Now TV and Roku)
8.0% (App and website)
|1.6% (BT Vision)|
21.5% - 42.2% (Google Play, Tunes EST, Amazon Germany EST, Amazon UK EST)
Sky ‘push’ content
Turner Northern Europe
16.5% (BT TV), 23.3% (Now TV), 23.3% (Sky On-Demand), 21.1% (Virgin TV), 11.1% (TalkTalk TV)
12.3% (BT TV) 23.6% (Now TV, Sky On Demand)
20.7% (Virgin TV)
|S4C||11.7%% (website, app and smart TV)|
 77 providers submitted data for this period, compared with 71 in the second half of 2018.
 Turner’s figures show AD provided to platforms but not necessarily played out to consumers.
We have provided this report in an interactive form so that consumers can compare the accessibility of broadcast and on-demand services across a variety of platforms. In addition to the report we have provided excel spreadsheets containing the full data set. If you have accessibility requirements which are not met by these publications, and would like to request information in a different format, you can email email@example.com or call our Advisory Team from Monday to Friday between 09:00 and 17:00 on 020 7981 3040 or 0300 123 3333. If you are deaf or speech-impaired, you can use our textphone numbers, which are 020 7981 3043 or 0300 123 2024.
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