TV access services 2018: Q1 and Q2
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 six months of 2018.
As with our last report, which looked at access services provision for the whole of 2017, we have combined reporting on broadcast and on-demand accessibility. This provides consumers with easy access to information on which services available via traditional broadcast television, catch-up or on-demand are accessible to people with sight and/or hearing impairments. Some providers operate both types of services, and our interactive report lets users compare the two.
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. Ofcom will shortly be providing recommendations to inform government’s drafting of regulations in this area.
Most domestic channels are continuing to comfortably meet their requirements. In addition, those channels that underprovided against their requirements in 2017 (Cartoon Network, Boomerang and CBS Reality) are on course to have exceeded their requirements by the end of 2018.
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 Film4.
2018 saw the introduction of new rules for non-domestic broadcasters which require them to meet their signing obligation by either broadcasting sign-presented or sign-interpreted programming or by providing 10% additional subtitling. Although the vast majority of channels have met these obligations, we expect any shortfalls to have been made up by the end of the year.
Ofcom regulates a wide range of ODPS, including public service broadcasters’ catch-up services, subscription film services and local TV archives.
Since the last report (which was for the full calendar year 2017) the percentage of providers making any content accessible on their ODPS rose from 50.6% to 54.7%. This was due to a rise in the provision of subtitles, from 49% to 52% of providers, and in audio description provision from 11% to 13.3% of providers (8.6% of services). The proportion of providers making signed content available remained static at 8% (4.7% of services). 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.
July to December 2017
January to July 2018
0.5% (cross platform)
N/A (service closed)
Dplay Entertainment (Sweden)
10.1% (app / website)
8.4% (Apple TV)
9.3-9.8% (All platforms except Sky and Virgin)
2.6% (BT TV)
16.2% (Google Play)
16.2%-20.4% (all available platforms)
Sky ‘push’ content
Turner Northern Europe*
10.9% (BT TV), 21.7% (Now TV, Sky On-demand), 9.4% (Virgin TV), 10% (TalkTalk TV)
Figure 1: Proportion of programme hours available with audio description Jan-June 2018
*Turner’s figures show AD provided to platforms, but not necessary played out to consumers.
ODPS accessibility varies greatly depending on the platform used to view the service. In the first half of 2018 the provision of subtitles across most types of platform appears to have stalled (or decreased slightly). 26% of ODPS available in the UK carried subtitles on their own-brand websites (down slightly from 27% in the second half of 2017). 20% of services carried subtitles on mobile apps over the same period (down from 19%), while only 7% (down from 8.8%) of ODPS provided subtitles when viewed using games consoles or smart TVs.
One area where we have seen an improvement is the accessibility of on-demand services viewed via set top boxes (e.g. FreeView, Sky Q) and video streaming sticks (e.g. Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast) which enable more traditional “living room” access to on-demand services via a television set. In 2018, 26% of services carried subtitles on these platforms, up from 20% in 2017. While this is a small increase, there remain only a limited number of ODPS which offer subtitles when viewed on some commonly used platforms. In the first half of 2018 only three on-demand services were available with subtitles on FreeView Play and Virgin (the same as at the end of 2017), and seven on Sky (up from six).
Ofcom’s next report on broadcast and ODPS accessibility will be published in Spring 2019 and will look at accessibility for the whole of 2018.
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.
Full interactive report
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