Ofcom releases report on access to EPGs

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Thursday, 5 May 2011 09:45am

Ofcom, the British media and communications regulator, has released a report into the accessibility of Electronic Program Guides (EPGs).

Under British communications law, EPG providers must produce annual statements of the steps they have taken and plan to take to facilitate the use of EPGs by people with disabilities.

The report is an analysis of the 2010 statements of satellite services (Sky and Freesat), cable services (Virgin Media), paid-for digital terrestrial services (BT Vision and Top-Up TV) and companies which provide EPGs that are installed in digital television receivers, including set-top boxes (Inview, ROVI).

Ofcom has found that most EPG providers publicise access features using common acronyms and symbols. BT Vision and ROVI currently do not use common acronyms and symbols across the board, but have committed or planned to adopt them by 2012.

Freesat and Topup TV now provide remote controls with a dedicated captioning button. Sky and Freesat now both provide an audio service (either a specific channel or a telephone number) which reads aloud available channels.

Sky is working closely with the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the peak body representing blind and vision-impaired people in the UK, to develop a text-to-speech function in their EPGs. Called ‘Sky Talker’, the product vocalises the search and scan banner, program synopsis and other functions. Freesat has also stated that it intends to include text-to-speech functionality in their EPGs.

ROVI plans to enable viewers to search for accessible content on their EPGs. For example, a viewer who searched for ‘audio description’ would be shown all content which is audio described.

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