Ofcom, Office of Communications

UK broadcasters exceed access requirements

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The bi-annual report into the provision of captioning, audio description and sign language on British TV has been released by the media regulator Ofcom. The January to June 2013 report shows that most broadcasters are exceeding their access targets.

The UK system splits the broadcasters into three levels, all based on their audience share.  The biggest category is Level 1 broadcasters, which includes the main free-to-air channels such BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and 5 and the main subscription channels from Sky.


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TV access expands in the UK

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The UK communications regulator Ofcom has released the list of channels which will be required to provide access services – captioning, audio description and signing – in 2014.

Each year, Ofcom reviews the audience share and revenue of television stations in the UK, and determines an appropriate level of access as set out in the ‘Ofcom Code on Television Access Services’. Most stations which have been broadcasting for ten years, and are required to provide the highest level of access, must broadcast 80% of their programs with captions (called subtitles in the UK), 10% with audio description and 5% with signing. However, some stations have voluntarily increased their levels.


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Awareness of audio description increases in the UK

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New research released by Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, shows that over 60% of people are aware of the service, which gives blind and vision impaired people access to television programs.

Audio description was first broadcast on British television in 1994, and by 2009 most of the main channels were required to provide it on 10% of their programs. However, research commissioned by Ofcom in that year showed that awareness of it among the general public was low. Following a public awareness campaign initiated by Ofcom and carried out by broadcasters, awareness rose to 37%.


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Television access in the UK: 2012 in review

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Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, has released its final report on the provision of access services on television for 2012. As in previous reports, most broadcasters were found to be exceeding quotas for captioning, which range from 70 to 100 per cent for most channels.

The Television Access Services: Final report on 2012 also shows that audio description levels are high. While their mandatory quotas are 10%, a number of channels, including ITV1 (in England and Wales), Channel 4, Sky (for its non-sport channels) and the BBC have committed to audio describing 20% of their programs.


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