Programme-related guidance


Guidance related to broadcast content and standards.

On 8 June 2017 there will be a General Election in the UK. As an aid to broadcasters, we are publishing a digest of evidence of past electoral support (i.e. election results) and evidence of current support (in the form of opinion polls).

Evidence of past electoral support and evidence of current support ahead of the General Election taking place on 8 June 2017 PDF, 460.8 KB

Ofcom has published its Statement amending its rules in the areas of due impartiality, due accuracy, elections and referendums PDF, 398.1 KB with effect from 22 March 2017. As an aid to broadcasters, we are also publishing, ahead of the May 2017 elections, a digest of evidence of past electoral support (i.e. election results) and evidence of current support (in the form of opinion polls).

Evidence of past electoral support and evidence of current support ahead of elections taking place on 4 May 2017 PDF, 456.9 KB

This guidance is to aid those broadcasters that carry psychic PTV advertising content and in particular to highlight Ofcom’s likely interpretation of the relevant BCAP Code rules relating to some compliance issues.

Ofcom guidance on Psychic television services predicated on premium rate telephony services PDF, 51.8 KB - Dec 2011

Ofcom has contracted out the regulation of most aspects of broadcast advertising to the ASA, but retains responsibility for the advertising of telecommunications-based sexual entertainment services and all other ‘participation TV’ (PTV) services1 .

Guidance on the advertising of telecommunications-based sexual entertainment services and PRS daytime chat services PDF, 88.1 KB - revised 15 Jul 2013

This guidance note represents a new approach to the regulation of C4C’s duty to provide public service content across the full range of its media platforms, including Channel 4, other digital channels, Film 4 and on-line.

Guidance note for completion of C4C combined statement of programme and media content policy PDF, 149.0 KB - 15 Feb 2013

This document contains the Rules which Ofcom has made in accordance with section 333 of the Communications Act 2003. The Rules reflect minimum requirements which Licensees are required to follow in determining the length, frequency, allocation and/or scheduling of party political or referendum campaign broadcasts.

Ofcom rules on Party Political and Referendum Broadcasts PDF, 138.3 KB - 22 Mar 2017

This document outlines the procedures which apply to Ofcom’s determination of unresolved disputes between political parties and broadcast licensees under Ofcom rules on Party Political and Referendum Broadcasts (Ofcom’s PPRB Rules):

Procedures for determination of disputes under Ofcom's rules on Party Political and Referendum Broadcasts PDF, 129.4 KB - updated 22 Mar 2017

All Ofcom television broadcasting licences contain a condition that licensees implement and maintain a system to verify the proper handling of premium rate telephone communications.

Guidance to television broadcasters on verification obligations for the use of premium rate services in programmes PDF, 139.0 KB

A guide to AD services and technology

If you’ve ever sat there struggling to see the TV picture you may want to think about turning on Audio Description. Audio Description (AD) is a free and existing service that can transform the enjoyment of TV for people who have difficulty seeing what’s happening on the screen.

What is Audio Description (AD)?

Like a narrator telling a story, an additional commentary describes body language, expressions and movements - allowing you to hear what you might not be able to see, so you don’t miss a thing.


How can I find out more about Audio Description?

This website should answer most of your questions about AD, but if you want to experience some online examples of audio described programming or need further information  visit www.audiodescription.org.uk or call  the RNIB’s Audio Description helpline on either 08456 01 01 81 or 0161 234 9063*.

* In line with Central Office of Information advice, the Audio Description Awareness campaign is offering the choice of an 0845 and a geographic 0161 number. Your telephone tariff plan will determine which number is cheaper for you to call. Callers should check the cost of calling 0845 and 0161 numbers with the company that bills them for calls.


What programmes can I watch with Audio Description?

AD is an additional service that is available on all major TV channels; it is not a new channel.

Many popular soaps and sitcoms like EastEnders, Neighbours, Coronation Street and Friends are audio described, not to mention loads of dramas, documentaries, cookery shows, travel programmes, children’s programmes and films.

You can find full audio described programme information by  visiting www.audiodescription.org.uk or by calling the AD Helpline.


How can I get Audio Description?

To get AD, your TV must be able to receive digital TV.

If you do not have digital TV already, you will need to convert your TV to receive it using a digital set-top box or by replacing it with an Integrated Digital TV (IDTV). Be aware that not all set-top boxes and IDTVs can receive AD.

Advice: Buying AD-ready digital equipment can be a challenge with store staff often unaware of what AD is. What are my options for buying AD? should provide you with all the information you need before going shopping

Do I already have digital TV?

It’s easy to find out. If you can receive more than five channels or six channels then you’re probably already digital. For any other questions relating to digital TV contact Digital UK.


How much will Audio Description cost?

The AD service itself is free to receive and use, but because you need digital TV to get it, you may need to buy some equipment. Prices vary, so it’s worth shopping around. See the next section or  call the AD helpline for information on affordable and suitable options.

A Digital Switchover Help Scheme exists and will provide support for some people depending on your situation. See support for more information.


What are my options for buying AD?

There are 3 main ways you can buy AD equipment.

1. Join Sky or Virgin Media.

With Sky and Virgin Media, AD can be turned on and off using your remote control and on-screen menus. There are several payment options if you decide to join either Sky or Virgin Media. With Sky you can pay a one-off installation cost with no monthly payments (Freesat) or you can pay a monthly subscription for more channels. Virgin Media offers digital TV with no additional monthly payments (Size M) when taken with its phone package or you can pay a monthly subscription for more channels.

If you already have Sky or Virgin Media, you already have AD. Use our instruction guide to find out how to switch  on AD

To join either Sky or Virgin Media contact them directly or speak to your local electrical retailer.

2. Buy a Freeview digital box

This is a set-top box that allows to you to get digital TV through your existing aerial. Only certain digital boxes allow you to receive AD. Currently only some TVonics and Portset Freeview boxes can receive digital TV with AD. See get the right equipment for a list of models

3. Purchase a Freeview Integrated Digital Television (IDTV).

An IDTV is a TV with a Freeview digital box built in. As with set-top digital boxes, not all can receive AD - currently, only certain Sony, Panasonic, Phillips and Toshiba IDTVs can - see get the right equipment for a list of  up-to-date specific models that have AD

Most major and independent electrical retailers will sell IDTVs that allow you to receive AD both in their stores and online.

Important: Before you buy a Freeview digital box or Freeview IDTV

  • A small number of areas in the UK cannot receive Freeview. To find out if you can receive it and when your area is switching to digital you can use Digital UK’s postcode checker service at www.digitaluk.co.uk. Digital UK are a not for profit organisation set up to manage the UK’s switch to digital TV.
  • Five to ten per cent of existing TV aerials cannot receive a digital signal and may need to be upgraded. Digital UK can advise on registered installers in your area.


Is there any support to help me get the equipment I need for Audio Description?

You may be eligible for assistance from the Digital Switchover Help Scheme. This scheme has been set up to provide assistance to people who may need more support in switching to digital television.

You are eligible if:

  • you are aged 75 or over
  • you receive Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance. Constant Attendance Allowance or Mobility Supplement
  • you are registered blind or partially sighted.

Some of the equipment options available from the Help Scheme will provide Audio Description. There may be a charge of £40 for basic help, depending on whether you receive income benefits or not.

The Help Scheme is being rolled out region by region and eligible people will be contacted a few months before switchover in their region.

Even if you are eligible for help, you may want to receive Audio Description before the Help Scheme comes to your area, in which case you can purchase equipment as already described. The Help Scheme will provide help to convert one TV to digital; you will have to convert other TVs yourself.

You need to be registered blind or partially sighted to qualify for help so if you think you could be registered, contact your ophthalmologist or ask your GP to refer you to an ophthalmologist.

There’s currently no helpline number for the Help Scheme but when there is, you will be able to get it from www.audiodescription.org.uk or the AD helpline.


Already a Sky customer? Just turn on Audio Description

If you are a Sky (“Freesat” or subscription) customer you already have AD and just need to turn it on by following the steps below. You’ll need to use your remote control and follow an on-screen menu display.

If you have trouble seeing the display,  Sky’s Accessibility Helpline can talk you through the process. Once it’s set up, it’ll be on every time you turn on your TV.

Getting to the AD menu

  • Press the “services” button on your remote control.
  • Move the highlighter down to “system setup” and press “OK” or simply press 4 on the remote.
  • Move the highlighter down to “languages and subtitles” and press “OK”, or press 3 on the remote.

Turning on AD and other options

The AD menu allows you to turn on a range of functions related to AD, including turning on AD itself.

  • To turn on AD or any other function, use the highlighter to select an option then press the left or right (triangular) arrow keys to change the status from “Off” to “On”.
  • The options that can be turned on or off are:
  • Turn on AD
  • Indicate with a beep AD programmes when channel hopping
  • Flag AD programmes in white on the on-screen TV listings guide

Saving your settings

Once you’ve set everything up how you want it, move the highlighter to “Save settings” and press “OK”.
To exit all menus, press the “Sky” button.

Using Audio Description on Sky

Even if you have turned on AD, certain channels need to be viewed on a different channel number to their regular one depending on where you live.

In London all channels are at their normal location

If you live in England (outside London)

BBC1 - Channel 974
BBC2 - Channel 102
ITV - Channel 993
Channel 4 - Channel 994

If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

BBC1 - Channel 974
BBC2 - Channel 989
ITV - Channel 993
Channel 4 - Channel 994

All other channels can be watched at their existing channel number and still receive AD.


Already a Virgin Media* customer? Just turn on Audio Description

If you are a Virgin Media (*formerly NTL or Telewest) customer you already have AD and just need to turn it on. You’ll need to use your remote control and follow an on-screen menu display. If you have trouble seeing the display, call Virgin Media’s  customer care line and they’ll talk you through the process. Once it’s set up, it’ll be on every time you turn on your TV.

Getting to the AD menu

  • Press the “Home” or “Guide” key, (usually a large button towards the centre of the remote).
  • A menu with nine options will appear. The options are numbered 1 to 9.
  • Press 8 for “Settings”.
  • Settings menu has six options, numbered 1 to 6.
  • Press 4 for “Change Display and Audio Settings”.

Turning on AD

  • The “Display and Audio” menu is an un-numbered list of items on the left of the page, and scrollable settings on the right.
  • Push the down arrow four times to highlight the setting “Audio Description when available”.
  • Press right arrow once. The display will change to “yes”.

Saving your settings

Press the OK button to store settings

Even if you have turned on AD, certain channels need to be viewed on a different channel number to their regular one:

BBC1 - Channel 851
BBC2 - Channel 852
ITV1 - Channel 853
Channel 4 - Channel 854
Five - Channel 855

All other channels can be watched on their normal number and still receive AD.


Does Audio Description only exist for TV?

No, AD exists across a range of different entertainment and cultural activities. For example:

  • Cinema
  • DVD
  • Theatre
  • Live sporting events
  • Museums and Galleries

To find out more about AD in areas beyond TV visit www.rnib.org.uk/audiodescription


Get the right equipment

At the time of publication the following Audio Description digital TV equipment could be purchased.

AD ready Freeview digital boxes

  • * Portset digital box
    * Portset Accessible Freeview Set-Top Box

TVonics digital box

  • MDR-300
  • MFR-300
  • DTRFP-1600AD

AD ready Freeview IDTVs

Panasonic IDTVs
All Panasonic plasma and LCD Integrated Digital TVs bought from the start of 2007 onwards can receive Audio Description.

Toshiba IDTVs

  • 32CV505DB
  • 32XV505DB
  • 37CV505DB
  • 37XV505DB
  • 42CV505DB
  • 42XV505DB

Sony IDTVs

  • KDL-70X3500
  • KDL-52X3500
  • KDL-46X3500
  • KDL-40X3500
  • KDL-46X3000
  • KDL-40X3000
  • KDL-52W3000
  • KDL-46W3000
  • KDL-40W3000
  • KDL-46V3000
  • KDL-40V3000
  • KDL-46D3500
  • KDL-40D3500
  • KDL-32D3000
  • KDL-32T3000
  • KDL-26T3000
  • KDL-40S3000
  • KDL-40T2800
  • KDL-32S3000
  • KDL-32S3020
  • KDL-32T2800
  • KDL-26S3000
  • KDL-32S3020
  • KDL-26T2800
  • KDL-20S3000
  • KDL-20S3020
  • KDL-20S3030
  • KDL-20S3040
  • KDL-20S3050
  • KDL-20S3060
  • KDL-20S3070
  • KDL-40P3020
  • KDL-37P3020
  • KDL-32P3020
  • KDL-26P3020
  • KDL-23B4050
  • KDL-20B4050
  • KDL-40U3000
  • KDL-32U3000
  • KDL-26U3000

Sky and Virgin Media will supply their own digital box when you sign up.


Further information

Audio Description Website and Helpline

AD website: www.audiodescription.org.uk.

AD helpline: 08456 01 01 81 or 0161 234 9063* .

* In line with Central Office of Information advice, the Audio Description Awareness campaign is offering the choice of an 0845 and a geographic 0161 number. Your telephone tariff plan will determine which number is cheaper for you to call. Callers should check the cost of calling 0845 and 0161 numbers with the company that bills them for calls

For information relating to digital TV

Call Digital UK on 08456 50 50 50§ or visit www.digitaluk.co.uk
(Digital UK is the independent, non-profit organisation leading the process of digital TV switchover in the UK).

Suppliers of Digital TV equipment that can receive Audio Description

**The cost of 0800, 0845, and 0870 numbers will be determined by your telephone tariff plan. Callers should check the cost of calling such numbers with the company that bills them for calls.


Glossary of AD terms

Audio Description is additional commentary on TV between programme dialogue that explains visual plot points like body language, expressions and movements. It’s only available through digital TV.

Digital set-top box (or digibox) is a small box that allows your existing TV to receive a digital signal. Your existing aerial plugs in the box and you connect the box to your TV’s aerial socket.

Digital Switchover will happen between 2008 and 2012 as the UK gradually switches to digital TV, region by region. The UK’s old analogue television broadcast signal is being switched off and any TV set that’s not converted to digital when the switchover takes place will no longer receive TV programmes.

Digital Switchover Help Scheme is a government scheme to help eligible people (including registered blind and partially sighted people) switch to digital TV. It is still being set up but will be up and running in 2008.

Digital TV is a way of broadcasting TV that allows your TV to receive more channels and access various services. Virtually all TVs can be converted to receive digital TV with a set-top box, or you can buy a new Integrated Digital TV.

Digital UK is the independent, non-profit organisation leading the process of digital TV switchover in the UK. Digital UK provides impartial information on how people should prepare for the move to digital and when to do it.

Freesat is a similar service to Freeview, but is received via a satellite dish rather than via an aerial.

Freeview is a free digital TV service bringing you channels including ITV2, E4 and BBC Three. When you buy a set-top box this normally comes as standard.

IDTV (Integrated Digital TV) is a TV with a digital box built in. With an IDTV you don’t need to buy a separate set-top box to receive digital TV.