Access rules for UK broadcasters to be extended to international channels

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Thursday, 24 May 2012 12:57pm

The UK communications regulator, Ofcom, is proposing a change of rules so that UK broadcasters whose services are intended for other European countries would have to provide the same levels of captioning, audio description and signing as domestic channels.

Ofcom’s ‘Proposals for access services on non-domestic channels’ are in response to the European Union’s ‘Audio Media Service Directive’. This states that “Each Member State shall ensure all audiovisual media services transmitted by media service under its jurisdiction comply with the rules of the system of law applicable to audiovisual media services intended for the public in that Member State”.

Ofcom is proposing 1 January 2014 as the date from which non-domestic channels would have to begin providing access services. The levels would match those required of domestic broadcasters, so that in the first year, 10% of programs would need to be captioned, 2% would need to be audio described, and 1% would need to be signed. These levels would then rise each year, reaching 80% captioning, 10% audio description and 5% signing in the tenth year. Channels would be granted exemptions to these requirements using the same criteria applied to domestic channels. So, for example, captioning requirements would be reduced if the cost of meeting the stated level exceeded 1% of a channel’s turnover.

Ofcom is seeking the views of interested parties on the proposed new rules, with the closing date for comments being 11 July 2012.   

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