Television

84 U.K. channels required to provide access services in 2018

MUMBAI: A new Ofcom document has explained which TV channels licensed by Ofcom are required to provide access services (subtitles, signing and audio description) on a proportion of their programming in 2018. Access services are intended to help people with sensory impairments to understand and enjoy TV programmes. The channels required to provide access services include domestic channels broadcast within the UK, and some non-domestic channels broadcast within certain Member States of the European Union.

In 2018, 84 domestic channels will be required to provide access. These channels account for over 90 per cent of television viewing in the United Kingdom. In addition, 30 non-domestic channels across seven different member states of the European Union will be required to provide access services in 2018.

The Communications Act 2003 required Ofcom to publish a code setting out the obligations of television channels licensed in the UK to provide television access services. Following consultation, Ofcom published the Ofcom Code on Television Access Services (“the Code”) in July 2004, together with an explanatory statement setting out the channels that would be required to provide such services in the following year.

The Code also provides for a mid-year review of the audience share and revenues of UK-licensed television channels, based on data for the previous year. The purposes of the review are to establish whether, in the next calendar year, channels should be:

a)  required to provide television access services;

b)  required to meet a different level of provision; or

c)  excluded from the requirement to provide television access services.

The statutory targets for broadcasters are expressed as percentages of the service.

They rise from a low level to the ten-year targets prescribed by the Act that is 80% for subtitling, 5% for signing and 10% for audio description. In the case of Channel 3 and Channel 4, the relevant target for subtitling is 90% and for BBC channels (excluding BBC Parliament, which is exempted on audience share grounds) it is 100%1.

Ofcom has used the cost of providing access services to calculate three levels of provision we apply to relevant channels:

d)  Level One equates to the full current annual targets for subtitling, signing and audio description, as well as any alternative requirements;

e)  Level Two equates to 66% of the current annual target for subtitling, as well as 100% of the targets for signing and audio description, and any alternative requirements; and

f)    Level Three equates to 33% of the current annual target for subtitling, as well as

100% of the targets for signing and audio description and any alternative requirements.

For channels broadcasting within the UK (‘domestic channels’), data collected from broadcasters in early 2016 was used by Ofcom to assess whether broadcasters can afford to meet their access service obligations by spending no more than 1% of their relevant turnover.

Under the BBC Charter and Agreement, Ofcom has specific duties relating to access services on BBC television and on demand services. We will publish further information on this separately in the near future.

For channels broadcasting in other Member States of the European Union (‘non- domestic channels’), Ofcom collected data from broadcasters in early 2017. This data has been used to generate country-specific estimates of the different costs incurred for the provision of access services. Ofcom then used these estimates to determine which non-domestic channels can afford to provide access services from

2018.

Domestic TV services

a)  84 channels will be required to provide television access services in 2018;

b)  80 channels will be required to provide access services at Level One during 2018, four channels will be required to provide access services at Level Two, and none will be required to provide access services at Level Three. Subtitling targets are now the highest required under the Code (80%) for most channels, with audio description at the maximum level of 10% for most; and

c)  over 50 time shifted services (e.g. ITV2 + 1) and simulcast HD services (e.g. ITV HD) are also required to provide access services.

The statutory target for audio description is 10% from the tenth anniversary of the relevant date (normally the date on which a channel started broadcasting). Four broadcasters – the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky – have committed to audio describing at least 20% of their content on most of their channels (excluding sports channels in the case of Sky).

Finally, the statutory target for sign interpreted programming is 5% from the tenth anniversary of the relevant date. Channels with a smaller audience share (i.e. an audience share between the audience share and signing thresholds set out in Annex 2 to the Code of Television Access Services) are excluded from the requirement to provide sign interpreted programming. Instead they are required to either:

a)  provide a minimum amount of sign-presented programming between 7am and 11pm every month, subject to the targets shown in the first row of Table A below and to transitional arrangements.

b)  pay a minimum annual contribution towards alternative signing arrangements approved by Ofcom as set out in Table A below, and subject to transitional arrangements.

Non-domestic TV services

a)  30 non-domestic channels will be required to provide television access services in 2018. The channels required to provide access services in 2018 are broadcast in seven Member States of the European Union;

b)   27 non-domestic channels will be required to provide access services at Level One, two channels will provide access services at Level Two, and one channel will provide access services at Level Three. Targets for most Level One channels will rise to 60% in 2018 from 35% in 2017; and,

c)  For the first time, Ofcom assessed whether any channels outside the European Union to which the Audio Visual Media Services Directive applies should be given a requirement to provide access services in 2018. No such channels have been given a requirement as none met the audience share and affordability criteria. We will assess these channels again in 2018 when determining which channels will have a requirement to provide access services in 2019.

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