A person pointing a remote control at a television screen

Ensuring the quality of TV and on-demand access services

Published: 15 April 2024

Ofcom is today announcing changes to our Access Services Code and associated best practice guidelines, to improve the accessibility of TV and on-demand programmes for audiences.

Access services include subtitles, signing and audio description. They help people with access needs, including blind and d/Deaf people and those with sight and hearing loss, to understand and enjoy TV and on-demand programmes.

Broadcasters must, by law, provide access services on a certain proportion of their programming. We explain what they must do in our TV Access Services Code and give advice on how they can ensure they are of a high quality and easy to use in our Best Practice Guidelines.

To inform our review of the Code and associated Guidelines, we conducted a public consultation and commissioned new research – also published today – revealing a need for more choice and options for customisation across all participants.

For on-demand and catch-up services, users of access services want, among other things, greater consistency in the layout of user interfaces and in finding accessible content.

The Code and Guidance

Having reviewed the evidence, and taking account of responses to our consultation, we are introducing a number of clarifications to the Access Services Code. We have made clear that Broadcasters must make sure:

  • access services are of a good enough quality to count towards the targets; and
  • when something goes wrong with access services, broadcasters must make every effort to tell their viewers what is going on and keep them up to date.

We are expanding our best practice guidelines to include, for the first time, video-on-demand providers such as ITV X and Channel 4, and subscription services like Now and Amazon Prime Video. Our approach focuses on outcomes for audiences, allowing the use of a range of technologies.

We are strengthening our guidance by offering additional advice on areas including:

  • serving people with cognitive and neurodevelopmental conditions;
  • key outcomes for audiences in relation to subtitling, audio-description and signing;
  • customisation options and choice for viewers; and
  • alternative means of making programmes accessible (for example, improving dialogue audibility for people with hearing loss).

The revised Code and guidance are now in place. Ofcom is also in the process of setting up a working group for user groups, broadcasters and on-demand providers to share best practice.

Read our plain English summaries and watch our BSL video summaries of the Access Services Code and best practice guidelines on the Ofcom website.

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