Advanced Television

Ofcom: New guidelines to improve VoD access services

April 15, 2024

Ofcom has announced changes to its Access Services Code and associated best practice guidelines, to improve the accessibility of TV and on-demand programmes for UK audiences.

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

Broadcasters must, by law, provide access services on a certain proportion of their programming. The media regulator explains explain what must do in its online TV Access Services Code and gives advice on how they can ensure they are of a high quality and easy to use.

To inform the review of the Code and associated Guidelines, Ofcom conducted a public consultation and commissioned research 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

Ofcom is introducing a number of clarifications to the Access Services Code.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.

Ofcom is expanding its best practice guidelines to include, for the first time, video-on-demand providers such as ITVX and Channel 4, and subscription services like Now and Prime Video. The approach focuses on outcomes for audiences, allowing the use of a range of technologies.

Ofcom is strengthening its 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.

Categories: Articles, Policy, Services, VOD

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