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 2020.
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 statutory obligation to provide access services. However, the Digital Economy Act 2017 paves the way for Government to draft regulations to improve the accessibility of ODPS. Ofcom has made one set of recommendations to inform the regulations and is currently analysing responses to our second consultation in order to provide follow-up recommendations to Government.
The vast majority of broadcasters have met or exceeded their quotas for the first six months of 2020 and those that have fallen slightly short are still on course to have fully met their requirements by the end of the year. Given the upheaval and disruption to programme schedules and operational workflows caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, we recognise that has been and remains particular challenges for many broadcasters in providing access services this year and we welcome the efforts made to ensure that these services have still been provided for the audiences that rely on them.
Domestic channels with an audience share of between 0.05% and 1% have the option either to broadcast 60 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.
Non-domestic broadcasters are required to meet their signing obligation by either broadcasting sign-presented or sign-interpreted programming or by providing 12.5% additional subtitling.
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, we have asked providers for information relating to the first half of 2020 on a voluntary basis in response to the pressures caused by the current coronavirus crisis. The number of providers responding can in any case vary, which should be taken into account when comparing data with previous years.
We are aware that the national lockdown from March 2020 had an adverse effect on the production of access services. Nevertheless, a greater proportion of providers responding to this request appear to have been offering subtitles (67.4% up from 58.1% in 2019) and audio description (21.4% up from 17.4%). Fewer providers had been offering signing (9.3% down from 12.8%).
Likewise, there was an apparent rise in the proportion of accessible content offered by those carrying access services from Jan-Jul 2020. On the platforms where those access services were supported, 66.3% of programming hours were subtitled, 18.6% were audio described and 2% were 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: UK services carrying audio description during the period Jan-Jul 2020
% content available with audio description in Jan-July 2020
AMC CBS UK
Amazon Fire TV
Android / iOS app
*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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
For the best experience, expand to full screen (click on the button in the bottom right corner).